Wildlife biologists in New Mexico are sounding alarms after hundreds of thousands of songbirds, including migratory species are being found dead across New Mexico, with no apparent reason for the mass die-off.
Species of birds identified in the mysterious mass die-off include warblers, swallows, and bluebirds. Wildlife biologists are working on hypotheses to determine the cause of such alarming levels of death.
A professor at New Mexico State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology says the mass die-off began in late August when numerous songbirds were found dead at the White Sands Missile Range.
“It’s devastating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so horrible in my life,” ecologist Martha Desmond said who is studying the mystery of mass bird die-offs, told local media KRQE-TV.
When the first cases were spotted in White Sands Missile Range, it was thought that the case was isolated, but gradually reports started to emerge from all over the state.
Wildlife experts in the state are urging people to report the deaths as soon as they are spotted, as wildlife biologists can study the fuller picture. Desmond and the team are also studying the dead bodies of the birds to learn more about the cause of death.
“We honestly do not know. It could be that the weather moved it and pushed birds out early in Colorado where it just snowed like crazy,” Desmond says.
Another reason she says could be the western wildfires that might have caused the mass die-offs since birds have very sensitive lungs.
“Some of them could have some smoke damage, birds have very sensitive lungs, it could be that we’ve had some very extreme, dry conditions here…it could be something unrelated that we’re not aware of,” Desmond said.
Desmond is also studying the birds that are alive. She says the birds are behaving oddly, showing signs of fatigue and letting people inch closer, which is abnormal before dying.
North America, in recent years, have reported alarming numbers of mass-die offs of migratory birds. Insect-eating species seem the worst-affected. Most cases have surfaced from states like Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.
“A lot of these species, they’re already in trouble and they’re experiencing declines. And then to have this type of event occur on top of it, it’s devastating,” Desmond says.