If you have ever seen the movie Birds then you likely have a slight fear of being swarmed upon by ten or twenty birds. You have likely told yourself though that the movie is unrealistic. However what if in reality it could be far worse? What if there was one particular bird that did not travel in groups of ten or twenty but in groups of thousands or millions? That bird is the Red-billed Quelea and fiction could not compare to these little wonders.
Red-Billed Quelea birds are found in sub-Saharan Africa and are now known to be the largest population of wild birds in existence. It is estimated there are up to a billion of these birds and that they travel in groups in the tens of thousands or millions. The birds are considered pests by farmers in the area as they particularly enjoy cultivated crops like millet. The groups can cover acres at one time so if they decide to feed on your crops it can be devastating.
The Red-Billed Quelea bird is a light brown bird with some having red and black feathers on their head. When a group travels they can be so close together that it can appear like a grey cloud is moving quickly in the sky. While to farmers that cloud is a real danger and a moment of worry, to nature lovers it is one of the most beautiful things to be witnessed in life.
If you have ever seen a large group of birds flying and swooping in intricate and complex patterns (called a murmuration) then a murmuring of the Red-Billed Quelea must be high on your bucket list. To see a million of these birds fly in unison would be like watching a ballet in the sky. While they may be the most hated bird in the world and the most abundant wild bird in existence, they are still incredibly beautiful.