Flocks of Birds and American Bison

A flock of European Starlings landing on the back of a BisonA flock of European Starlings landing on the back of a Bison – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

November and December seem to be good months to see flocks of birds and American Bison together on Antelope Island State Park. Last year in early December I photographed this American Bison while a flock of European Starlings flew in to settle on its back, there was a small herd of bison at the top of a hill with a stormy looking sky behind it to the north and I couldn’t resist the dramatic setting.

The birds land on the bison’s back for warmth on cold days and they can peck insects off of the bison’s fur too. Mostly the bison ignore the birds.

A flock of birds and an American BisonA flock of birds and American Bison – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1000, ISO 400, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light

Earlier this month I was out on Antelope Island again looking for birds and on the south end of the island I came across a herd of bison with large flocks of birds, European Starlings and a few Red-winged Blackbirds, flying past the bison or landing on them for a few brief seconds before they flew away again. The light wasn’t as dramatic that day as it was in the top picture but I always find flocks birds and bison appealing so I had to stop my Jeep and take some photos. I wasn’t the only one, there were about four other vehicles stopped to watch the birds and American Bison.

When I lived in Florida about the only place I could photograph American Bison was in a zoo and I dreamed of taking images like these from afar. I didn’t know then that I would move to Utah and that I would be able to photograph American Bison in the wild nearly any day of the week.

Life is good.



  1. Utahbooklover November 22, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    The image with the sky is outstanding. My first close encounter with a wild Bison was in Yellowstone, also around 1972. I held still as it walked past me about 20 feet away — a great experience and photo.

  2. Robert Draper November 21, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Mia….I truly love these photos. They’re in a category all their own. Thanks, you make life good.

  3. Elephant's Child November 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    WOW. What an incredible sight to see.

  4. Bob Mcpherson November 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Beautiful Images, Mia. Love the Bison and its heritage.

  5. Cindy November 17, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Stunning and for some reason Cinderella came to mind, the birds helping her dress. 🙂 I love starlings and their magical murmations. If you squint your eyes a bit on the second shot, you can almost imagine the starlings merging to form the bison or the other way around, the bison shaking off the starlings, all interconnected. Thank you Mia for sharing with us.

  6. Dick Harlow November 17, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Ah yes life is good!!
    My first American Bison in the wild (if you can call fenced in, wild) was in Montana in 1972! It was a beautiful setting!!
    Now we live vicariously through yours and Ron’s photographs – love em all!!

  7. Patty Chadwick November 17, 2015 at 6:53 am

    I understand that the birds pick ticks off of the bisons’ backs…that must be a relief, especially if there areca lot of ticks picked up in those tall grasses and a cloud of starlings decide to visit! Very dramatic shots!

  8. Chris Rohrer November 17, 2015 at 6:03 am

    That is amazing!

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