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.

Something’s wrong with Right Whales

A few years ago, right whales began washing up on the shores of Argentina’s Patagonian coast. So far, researchers have counted a total of 308 dead whales since 2005.

These right whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdés are amidst the largest die-off of great whales ever recorded. Whatever is killing them remains unknown.

About 88 percent of the whale deaths were calves that were less than three months old. Curiously, many of the corpses had unusually thin layers of blubber. The deceased calves found comprise almost a third of all right whale calve sightings in the last 5 years…

“Península Valdés is one of the most important calving and nursing grounds for the species found throughout the Southern Hemisphere,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program and a member of the IWC’s Scientific Committee. “By working with the government of Argentina, the Province of Chubut, the IWC, and our diverse team of experts and specialists, we can increase our chances of solving this mystery, the critical next step to ensuring a future for this population of southern right whales…”

The southern right whale is one of the world’s great conservation success stories. Unlike the North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales (both of which number in the low hundreds), southern rights have managed to rebound from centuries of commercial whaling, with populations growing at approximately 7 percent annually since 1970. Growing up to 55 feet in length and weighing up to 60 tons, the southern right whale is now the most abundant species of right whale in the world.

Ensuring their long-term survival may take quicker feet than the average study group, conference or, especially, government committee. No one has determined the cause of the die-off, yet.