Skip to content

Why Do Birds Fly in Circles? Knowing the Purposes

One common behavior of birds is to fly in circles. Do you think this is random? If so, you should change your thinking. There is a purpose behind it.

So, why do birds fly in circles, then? Birds have the ability to adapt to a weather phenomenon called thermals.

It’s a temperature that rises from the earth’s surface, and birds can use them to gain altitude without expending much energy.

Also, some behavioral matters, such as migration or navigation, may cause them to fly in circles. 

Keep an eye on this article to understand its purpose well. It will offer a comprehensive walkthrough with in-depth discussions of the purposes. 


Why Do Birds Fly in the Circles?

There are several explanations for why birds circle while flying. These may include the search for food, communication, and thermals. Sometimes, it might also be considered an instinct.

Before delving into the complete study, consider some of the possible causes. Several bird species are commonly found exercising these causes.

Reason for flying in Circle Bird Species
Thermals and Soaring Most Birds, primarily Eagles, Vultures
Flock Behavior or Signaling Starlin, Cranes, Rook
Predator Avoidance Comparatively smaller birds, such as pigeons 
Pre-Migration Starlings, shorebirds, robins
Natural Instinct Pigeons, Eagles, etc.

Please remember that this list is not inclusive, and other reasons and species may display this behavior. Numerous species may circle for a variety of reasons, too.

However, without further ado, let’s get our inspection going.

Thermals and Soaring

Birds may climb without expending much energy by exploiting thermal columns of warm air rising from the earth’s surface.

Vultures, eagles, buzzards, and hawks are among the birds circling in the air to prolong their time in a thermal. Thanks to this, they can ascend while saving energy.

Thermals allow birds to soar without moving their wings, in addition to gaining height. This is known as dynamic soaring, enabling birds to cover great distances with minimal energy expenditure. 

Consequently, birds use their keen eyesight and ability to sense the direction and strength of wind currents to locate and stay within thermals.

This behavior is significant for these birds of prey as they often rely on thermals to hunt their prey. They can spot the prey from a higher altitude and dive down to catch it with minimal energy expenditure.

Flock Behavior and Signaling 

Birds communicate with one another while circling, which is another reason. Flying in circles is one of the many visual and auditory cues that birds use to communicate.

Circular flight is a sign that one bird has located a thermal or a food source and that the rest of the flock should follow.

This behavior is widespread among birds that forage in flocks, such as gulls, pelicans, and geese

They often fly in circles, signaling to other birds in the flock that they have found a food source and should come feast. This behavior helps bring the herd together and allows for more efficient foraging.

Predator Avoidance 

Flying and making circles is another defense mechanism used by birds. When defending themselves from predators, flocks of birds frequently fly in circles.

Birds can constantly watch their surroundings while making circles in the sky, making it more difficult for predators to sneak up on them. This behavior is regularly observed in vulnerable birds such as pigeons and hawks.

These birds frequently fly in circles to defend themselves and their young from predators like foxes, raccoons, and other birds of prey.

During Pre-Migration

Before birds migrate, they typically gather in large groups to prepare for their journey. One of the ways they signal to other birds that they are preparing to relocate is by doing circle flying. 

This can be called “pre-migratory behavior,” inviting other birds to join them on their migration trek.

Birds typically soar in massive circles during pre-migration, reaching heights of several thousand feet.

This behavior is widespread among birds that migrate in flocks, such as swans and starlings. The birds will fly in tight circles, often with a single bird leading the way and the rest of the flock following closely behind.

Another essential function of pre-migratory congregating is allowing birds to establish social connections. Birds need to bond with others who will be traveling with them. 

For example, birds engage in vocal and visual communication during this time, which helps to create a sense of cohesion and community among the flock.

Other Additional Purposes, including Natural Instinct

Another purpose that may serve the reason to fly in circles is dancing and uplifting.

Sometimes, birds make circles while flying to create a mesmerizing dance. Not all birds fly in groups, as is commonly observed.

However, some lone birds, usually found in couples, perform a visually dazzling display by flying high in the sky and making circles.

This behavior is often seen in courtship rituals and serves as a way for birds to attract a mate.

In addition, some birds fly in circles and perform updrafts. They can use this technique to reach higher altitudes and extend their flight range, allowing them to travel greater distances and explore new areas.

It is often said that birds fly in groups and circles before a storm. It means if we see birds continuously circling in a particular area, this may be a sign of a storm coming.


Do you still have some questions? Look in this section. You may find your answer here.

Is it possible to predict when birds will fly in circles?

It is difficult to predict precisely when birds will fly in circles. However, certain conditions, such as thermal activity and migration patterns, can increase the likelihood of birds engaging in this behavior. 

Can different species of birds fly in circles together?

Yes, different species of birds can fly in circles together. For example, wagtails and blackbirds fly together in large flocks.

Can food search be a reason for birds’ circling?

Yes, it can be a reason, too. Circle flying can give them the advantage of looking around and observing wider.


So, why birds fly in circles is not unknown to you. For generations, mankind has been captivated by this exciting and compelling behavior. The reasons for this activity are various and complicated, whether for migration, hunting, or courting displays.

Birds of all shapes and sizes have been observed engaging in this behavior. However, it serves as a reminder of these feathered creatures’ incredible adaptations and capabilities. This beauty and mystery of birds in flight will enchant us for generations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *