Watch bird flight videos: Track movement and pattern of individual birds.
Hypnotizing Videos Trace Birds’ Flight Patterns
Wild Things
Slate’s animal blog.
Jan. 28 2014 3:51 PM

Visualizing Bird “Jizz”


One of the best ways to identify a bird is by the way it flies, especially at a distance when details about its coloration and other field marks are hard to make out.  Birders call the way a bird moves the “jizz” of a species, and it can vary dramatically across species.

Information on flight behavior is valuable for field identification, but collecting large amounts of visual data on bird flight is a relatively new scientific practice.  This has been part of the inspiration behind a series of videos created by Dennis Hlynsky, head of the film/animation department at the Rhode Island School of Design. Using a time blend effect in Adobe After Effects, Hlynsky slogged through gigabytes of recorded video to visualize flight pattern data for several species, including black vultures, a mixed flock of swallows, and European starlings, famous for their murmuration flight behavior.


In addition to teaching, Hlynsky is on the advisory group at RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab, and has used a similar approach to visualize plankton for the URI Coastal Institute.

You can watch all of his original videos here.

Ben Mirin is a former Slate staffer who writes and produces music about science and nature. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog,

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