Stunning starling ballet captured as scientists call on public to help solve mystery

Tens of thousands of starlings start their murmuration, with Criffel mountain in the background Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Tens of thousands of starlings produced beautiful displays near the English and Scottish border yesterday evening.

The congregation - known as murmurations - were seen near Gretna Green producing a variety of recognisable shapes.

The reason for the extraordinary spectacle is not definitively known, with theories ranging from a defence mechanism against predators to attracting more birds to join their roost.

Gretna is one of the most famous locations to spot murmurations, and numbers can swell to as many as 100,000 in one roost.

Starlings often form large groups and undertake spectacular aerial displays known as murmurations. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

A survey of the birds across the UK is currently being conducted by the University of Gloucestershire, with members of the public being urged to report their sightings.

Dr Anne Goodenough, reader in applied ecology at the university, said the cause of the starling decline is unknown.

Throughout the autumn and winter months, hundreds of thousands of starlings turn the sky black around the UK Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

According to nature conservation charity the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), starlings are still one of the commonest of garden birds in the UK. However, its decline elsewhere makes it a Red List species.

Since the mid-1970s the UK population has fallen by 66 per cent, the survey suggested.