Starling Flocks Are Flying Avalanches

A Wired blog post, 16-Jun-10 (the pictures are quite impressive, as well as the observations). To watch the uncanny synchronization of a starling flock in flight is to wonder if the birds aren’t actually a single entity, governed by something beyond the usual rules of biology. 

New research suggests that’s true.
Mathematical analysis of flock dynamics show how each starling’s movement is influenced by every other starling, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter how large a flock is, or if two birds are on opposite sides. It’s as if every individual is connected to the same network. That phenomenon is known as scale-free correlation. The closest fit to equations describing starling flock patterns come from the literature of “criticality,” of crystal formation and avalanches.

There is a conclusion that starling flocks are a critical system. A phenomenon, we know from bubbles in the financial system. Phases in which distributions of returns become leptocurtic.
This corresponds with the intuition that in phases of swarm behavior synchronized speed is kept high, because of low "noise".