Starlings put on nightly show above Amsterdam’s Sarphatipark, but poop coats neighborhood

As soon as dusk falls, a breathtaking air show unfolds in Sarphartipark, Amsterdam. Thousands of starlings gather there every day in an orchestrated dance, swooping and swirling in the sky, to the delight of residents and tourists. “It’s really beautiful,” a tobacco shop employee told NL Times. “I step outside every day to watch.”

He explained that the birds usually come together around 6 p.m. as the sun sets. They all begin to gather in a tree until it seems to completely blacken because it is so crowded. Then, all at once, they take off and fly together in the sky for an hour before leaving again. Many people gather every day on the street to enjoy this show.

“It’s very pretty, and they make a beautiful sound,” said a woman working in a store nearby. But she warned, “You have to pay attention because it’s raining poop.” Cars, bicycles, terraces chairs, and pavement: nothing is spared.

The tobacco shop employee confirmed the situation, saying that last week he discovered his car was completely covered with bird droppings. “I had just cleaned my car. At first, I thought I was going crazy, but then I saw the birds and I got it.” Passers-by are sometimes also caught off guard. “People have come to my store asking for napkins,” he said with giggle.

According to birdwatcher Arjan Dwarshuis, the tree is a meeting point for the starlings before they head to their respective roost. He told AT5 that the starlings fly for several reasons.

“It is like a beacon on the horizon for lone starlings. Starlings flying in small groups can then easily know where the large group is.” He also explained that this is mostly about safety in the numbers. “If there are many of them, they’re less likely to be caught by raptors.” Flying in flocks can also create confusion and disorient potential birds of prey.

This phenomenon is not new, as starlings come wintering in the city. “It’s been happening for years,” said a bartender of a nearby café. They will probably leave next week for Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, so those who still want to see the starlings have to hurry.

“But don’t forget to bring your umbrella!” said laughing the tobacco shop employee.

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