Birds of a feather

Søren Solkær makes his living photographing fashion and pop culture, but he has a secret love of common starlings – Sturnus vulgaris – and their sculptural flocking during annual migration from Southern Europe to the Arctic Circle. Cool fact: the collective noun for starlings is murmuration. The images form a collection called Black Sun.

Black sun 8w

Black sun 12w

Black sun 21w

Black sun 37w

Black sun 50w

Black sun 59w

Black sun 65w

Black sun 70w

Black sun 72 w

COSMOS: What drew you to try to capture the movement of murmuration as still images?

Søren Solkær: I had seen starling murmurations as a boy in Southern Denmark, where I grew up, but I started photographing four years ago.

The phenomenon leans itself towards moving images as it is an organic progression of shapes in an endless flux. I found, however, that a lot of the images that appear on the sky are so fleeting, like life itself, and were only possible to capture on stills. Only in the editing process would I be able to relive the experience and actually see what had happened.

Are there particular conditions/seasons where this flocking behaviour is more common?

It happens in Denmark in March and October as part of the starling’s migration from and to Southern Europe and the UK. The duration depends a lot on the temperature and can last anything from a week to two months. 

How many photos do you estimate you have taken of flocking?

Around 100,000. I had to edit that number down to 109 for Black Sun. For the first two years I photographed them in Denmark. Then I started following the birds along their migration paths – and photographed in Rome, Catalonia, Friesland and the UK.

See more of Søren Solkær’s work at His work will be exhibited in Sydney in September 2021. Check his website or @sorensolkaer for details.

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