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Why Do Birds Fly In Circles?

Although bird watching has been a popular hobby for decades, more and more people from the wider, general publish have been watching the wild birds in their local areas recently with many of them reaching out to ask various questions about the strange behaviors that they see the birds doing.

Although some of the things that you may see birds doing may seem strange and out of place to us, the majority of these behaviors actually have a logical reason behind them.

One of these behaviors that we have seen people reaching out and asking about recently is why birds fly in circles, especially when in groups.

With so many people asking about birds flying in circles as well as different types of birds having their own unique reasons as to why they will fly in circles, we wanted to publish our own, dedicated article on the topic in the hope that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible better understand the behaviors of their local bird population.

We have broken our article down into a number of sections that can be easily navigated by our table of contents below.

This should make it easy to navigate the article without wasting to time get to specific sections that you want the answers to as we feel this way of formatting the article will make it much easier for our readers to find what they need.

Why Do Birds Fly In Circles?

The most common reasons that birds will fly in circles is to try and confuse predators, to feast on a bugs flying, to take advantage of hot air updrafts, and to search for prey.

Different types of birds will fly in circles for different reasons but the majority of birds will usually fly in circles for one of these reasons.

There are some less common reasons that a bird may fly in circles ranging from an injury to the bird’s wings, disease and illnesses effective a birds brain, and the bird being scared but these do tend to be much less common than the reasons that we covered above.

On top of that, there are a couple of weather-dependent situations that can also cause birds to fly in circles but these are usually all based on the bird flying in high wind.

If you have a pet bird that you let out of its cage to fly around your home, there is a good chance that it will fly in circles simply due to the lack of space available for the bird to fly around.

This is totally normal for domesticated pet birds due to the space limitations that are available when you let your pet bird out to fly.

Why Do Small Birds Fly In Circles?

The two most common reasons that smaller birds such as sparrows, starlings, and pigeons will fly in circles is to try and protect themselves from a potential predator or to surround a group of insects flying in an area to feed on them.

These are both natural behaviors in birds and one of the most common situations where you will see wild birds flying in circles in your local area.

It is speculated that when many small birds fly in a circle, it can confuse a bird of prey that is potentially trying to eat one of the birds and discourage it from making its attack.

The main theory is that when birds fly in a circle, the birds flying at the front of the circle are flying in one direction and the birds flying at the back of the circle are flying in another creating a never-ending optical illusion that can cause problems with the depth perception in a bird of prey making it difficult for the bird to strike.

When birds like starlings and various other small birds find a group of insects flying, it can be very common for them to fly in a circle around the insects while the birds pick off the insects and eat them until they have had their fill.

This can be a quick and easy way for some birds to easily get a meal without having to put themselves at risk to potential predators by landing on the groups.

Why Do Large Birds Fly In Circles?

The majority of large birds that fly in circles are doing so because they have found a natural updraft of hot air that is rising and can help them get to altitude.

It takes a large amount of energy for a large bird to get to higher heights and flying in a circle in or around an updraft of hot air can make it much easier for the bird to climb due to hot air rising.

This can be very common in some countries due to these natural updrafts of hot air being far more common due to the local temperatures but this can still occur in most countries at certain times of the year.

Keep in mind that you may see large birds flying in a circle to take advantage of these updrafts far away from you when the area you are in is cold.

This does not mean that there is an area of hot or warm are where the birds are flying as there are a number of natural phenomena that can cause these updrafts.

Some people claim that these updrafts are more common when the sky is red but this is not correct and they can occur for a large number of different reasons.

This is why you will often find these larger birds flying in circles to take advantage of these hot air updates at all times of the day no matter the color of the sky in your local area.

Why Do Birds Or Prey Fly In Circles?

Although some birds of prey can hover, others will have to fly in circles to zero in on their prey before striking and this is a very common reason that you may see a bird of prey flying in circles.

After a couple of seconds, the bird of prey will often swoop down to strike at its pretty or fly off due to having lost sight of the prey.

This does tend to be far more common in rural areas than large towns and cities due to there being less birds of prey in these areas but you can still see this happening in urban areas in some situations.

There are other birds such as vultures that will fly in circles above carrion too as they wait for it to be safe for them to fly down and eat the carrion that they have found.

Sometimes you can see birds of prey that are usually solitary flying in circles due to finding a large animal that is showing signs of weakness or illness being below them.

These birds would often not try to take a larger animal down but if the animal is looking weak, this can sometimes occur but it is very rare.


That brings our article going over why birds fly in circles to an end. We have tried to go into as much depth as possible to cover the more common reasons that birds will fly in circles to help our readers understand these behaviors. As we mentioned earlier in the article, although these behaviors can sometimes seem strange and unusual, they almost always have a logical reason behind them.