Incredible Videos Reveal Birds’ Flight Paths

An artist offers a whole new way of visualizing how birds and other animals move.  

Artist Dennis Hlynsky is giving new meaning to the expression "as the crow flies."

A professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hlynsky's videos offer an unprecedented look at how birds and other animals move. He records wildlife, then uses technology to generate "visual paths" of their movement. In the videos he creates, the typically invisible flight paths of birds appear before the viewer's eyes, like the contrail of an airplane.

Hlynsky uses After Effects and other tools to edit the footage he captures. He's applied the approach to ducks, swallows, and black vultures, among other avian species. One video, spanning nearly 15 minutes, details and traces the mesmerizing and ever-shifting flight of a flock of starlings. It's at once seemingly chaotic and synchronized, and has the ethereal quality of much of Hlynsky's work.


The videos, says Hlynsky, allow for "looking at a wider moment than we normally see in our normal perception." His process doesn't affect the rhythm of the motion of the animals, which is just one reason why the scientific community, particularly ornithologists, is interested in Hlynsky's work. A group of beekeepers who hope to learn more about the movements of bees have also expressed interest in his work.

Hlynsky's creations provide an effective way of measuring things like how individual species fly, how fast they zip along, and whether they're all moving at the same speed. "It's an easier general impression of what's happening," Hlynsky said.


But you don't have to be a scientist to appreciate Hlynsky's work. And he welcomes the viewers' creative interpretations of the patterns the animals create.

"Some people see it as barbed wire, some people see it as sparks jumping from telephone pole to telephone pole, some people look at it as evidence of DNA," he says of his work. "We tend to create narratives out of the things we see."

Thanks to Hlynsky, we might see the natural world in a way we never have before.

Check out more of Hlynsky's work here.

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