It seems to me that large bird flocks are  moreprone to take flight 
suddenly as a group simply because the large number makes it more 
probable that one or more birds moves suddenly, causing the whole group 
to take fright/flight. Smaller flocks have a smaller probability at any 
given moment.
Birds in a flock are constantly aware of what others are doing, 
presumably as warning and group safety. Meanwhile, an individual is 
always twitching to get at the food -- a sudden jump may be all that it 
takes to set off the whole flock. This looks like what one always sees 
with Snow Bunting flocks that take off and return to the same spot every 
few moments.
Does someone have a video of such behaviour to demonstrate whether this 
interpretation is correct?
(However, this does not explain why flocks disappear from feeders for 
hours or days before returning.)

Nari Mistry

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Nari B. Mistry, Ithaca, NY
To see my paintings, visit
http://www.ArtbyNari.com

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