There is a detail not explicit in this article that fits the computer network analogy. By its flight path, each bird adds its personal input and helps guide the course of the flock.

Don Burnap
Rapid City, S.D.

Andrea Cavagna, a physicist at Italy’s National Research Council, says that those studying how flocks of starlings coordinate flight have long debated whether a few birds lead in setting the course of the flock. Simulations show that the flock’s decisions could indeed emerge from systemwide self-organization principles, he says, rather than from individual actions of a few birds. He adds that further analysis of the data he and his collaborators collected may help settle the question. —Davide Castelvecchi