THIS is the moment stunned onlookers stopped to watch a mesmerising display from a murmuration of starlings.

Video footage taken on Saturday shows walkers along Brighton seafront and on the beach pause to watch the birds as they swooped in unison over the Palace Pier.

The winter spectacle, which happens just before dusk, can include hundreds of thousands of starlings.

The Palace Pier is one of the best spots in the UK to witness the aerial dance, as well as Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway and Leighton Moss in Lancashire.

Every year keen photographers aim to capture the sight, including bird watcher Bill Brooks, who caught a murmuration flying over the sea which formed the shape of the Loch Ness Monster last February.  

READ MORE: Murmuration of starlings form distinctive shape of Loch Ness Monster

Experts are still not completely sure how the birds know which way to turn without colliding with others, but it is thought murmurations occur to provide safety in numbers from predators, or to sign-post a roost.

According to the RSPB, starling numbers have fallen by more than 80 per cent in recent years, and they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk.

The decline is believed to be due to the loss of permanent pasture, an increased use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK.