Vladimir Putin Flies Over New York

Is this normal bird behavior or a sign that Russia is ascending?

Quick Rorschach test: What do you see at the six-second mark in the video above? If your answer is “birds,” carry on with your day. If, however, your answer is “Vladimir Putin’s face,” congratulations! You might be a conspiracy theorist.

Okay, yes—once you know what you’re looking for, there’s a moment in this video when this starling murmuration appears to briefly coalesce into a shape that bears a passing resemblance to the Russian president. To be fair, if you stare at it hard enough the face flash could also be interpreted as a glasses-less Steve Jobs, or a human Jerry Mouse, or your best friend’s dad, or any one of a million other people. It’s the Putin comparison, though, that’s struck a chord, as indicated by many comments below the video, which was shot last week in New York and which has had well over a million views. (Of course, this isn’t the first time the internet has magic-eyed Putin’s flinty visage onto an unsuspecting animal.)

It’s also possible that the video is a fake. But one thing is definitely for real: Starling mumurations are awesome. Beyond providing fun fodder for the tinfoil-hat crowd, this phenomenon, which occurs when hundreds or even thousands of starlings gather together to create one swirling avian entity, actually helps the birds stay safe from predators, feed without worry, and even keep warm. (To learn more about murmurations and what causes them, read our story about them.)  

So keep an eye out for murmurations—chances are, every once in a while, they’ll be looking at you, too.