Thousands of birds falling from the sky in American Southwest

Allison Salas/New Mexico State University

Thousands of migrating birds have inexplicably died in south-western US in what ornithologists have described as a national tragedy that is likely to be related to the climate crisis.

Flycatchers, swallows and warblers are among the species “falling out of the sky” as part of a mass die-off across New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and farther north into Nebraska, with growing concerns there could be hundreds of thousands dead already, said Martha Desmond, a professor in the biology department at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Many carcasses have little remaining fat reserves or muscle mass, with some appearing to have nose-dived into the ground mid-flight…

Historic wildfires across the western states of the US could mean they had to re-route their migration away from resource-rich coastal areas and move inland over the Chihuahuan desert, where food and water are scarce, essentially meaning they starved to death. “They’re literally just feathers and bones,” Allison Salas, a graduate student at NMSU who has been collecting carcasses, wrote in a Twitter thread about the die-off. “Almost as if they have been flying until they just couldn’t fly any more.”

Folks here in New Mexico been talking about this for days. At first, we thought it was just something local. We figured on climate change. Waterways are turning bad as much as trees and vegetation are dying off. It’s just more widespread than we ever imagined.

4 thoughts on “Thousands of birds falling from the sky in American Southwest

  1. Cassandra says:

    “Bird Die-off Has Birders Guessing” (Rio Grande Sun, Española, New Mexico, Sept 24, 2020)
    New Mexico State University researcher warns massive bird die-off ‘is an alarm’
    “Silent Spring” (1962)

  2. Update says:

    New Mexico migratory bird deaths: Lab report points to starvation, weather conditions
    Migrating birds reached New Mexico severely malnourished and often disoriented by weather conditions, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center announced Friday, but analysis did not determine a single cause for the mass die-off.
    The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin analyzed dead birds collected by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in September.
    Game and Fish Director Michael Sloane said the bird analyses showed no evidence of bacterial or viral disease.
    “The best we can say is that the timing of the record cold, the (wildfire) smoke, the high winds, combined with their timing of migration may have depleted their stores,” Sloane told the Game Commission at Thursday’s meeting. “They may have come in (to New Mexico) depleted because they left early from places to the north.”
    New Mexico had record-breaking heat on Labor Day. For the next several days, extreme winds were accompanied by record early freezes and snowfall. At the time, wildfires were raging across the West, which may have prompted an early migration for some birds.
    After Labor Day, bird enthusiasts and residents across New Mexico and other Southwestern states began reporting large numbers of dead migratory birds.
    “Consistently across the board, the birds were undernourished, had no or limited fat stores and generally had no foodstuffs in their stomachs or intestines,” Sloane said.

  3. Scorched earth says:

    “The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized changes that weaken the government’s enforcement powers under a century-old law protecting most American wild bird species, brushing aside warnings that billions of birds could die as a result.
    The highest-profile enforcement case bought under the migratory bird act resulted in a $100 million settlement by BP, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 killed approximately 100,000 birds.”

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