The mystery began on 20 August with the discovery of large numbers of dead birds at the US Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, according to Martha Desmond, a professor in the university’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology.
An isolated incident was previously thought to have become a much more serious problem when hundreds more dead birds were found in areas across the state. Which includes Dona Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell and Socorro.
“It’s just terrible,” Desmond told CNN. “This number is in six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we are seeing, we know that it is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and perhaps even millions of dead birds, and we are looking at the high end of that. . ”
Dead migratory birds – including species such as warblers, bluebirds, sparrow, blackbirds, western wooden peewee and flycatcher – are also found in Colorado, Texas and Mexico.
Desmond and his team, along with biologists from the White Sands Missile Range, began identifying, cataloging, and investigating about 300 dead birds on Saturday to learn more about the situation when they died.
Residents and biologists saw birds working strangely before dying. For example, birds that are commonly seen in bushes and trees have been seen on the ground in search of food and chasing insects.
Many were lethargic and unresponsive so they were hit by cars, Desmond said, “in larger numbers than ever before.”
He said that at the golf course of the missile range, Swallows, who are airborne insectivores, who are not even moving, sat on the ground and let people approach them.
Desmond said, “Those birds that had migrated before being prepared due to the weather did not have enough fat to survive.” “Some birds didn’t even have reserves to start the migration, so they died in place.”
Some birds may have to change their migratory passages, while some may inhale smoke and sustained lung damage.
While fires and dry weather in New Mexico may have increased the death toll of migratory birds, that still leaves many questions.
“We started seeing isolates in August, so there’s something else going on in the weather events and we don’t know what it is. So that is really disturbing in itself,” he said.
The birds will be sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory Oregon for necrosis and determine the cause of their death, but it may take a few weeks to get results.
“It’s devastating. Climate in-charge is playing a role in this.” Desmond said. “We lost 3 billion birds in the US since 1970 and we have also seen a tremendous decline in pests, so this type of event is terrible for these populations and is devastating to watch.”