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Hundreds of thousands of birds are falling dead from the sky at an ‘unprecedented’ rate in New Mexico

An ‘unprecedented’ number of birds have fallen from the sky at an alarming rate in New Mexico – and some experts suspect the wildfires raging on the West Coast may be the cause.

The mystery first began on August 20 when hundreds of dead birds were discovered in the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, Professor Martha Desmond, New Mexico State University told CNN.

But what was initially believed to be an isolated incident has turned out to be a widespread problem.

In the weeks that followed, an innumerable number of birds – presumably in the ‘hundreds of thousands, if not millions’ range were found dead across the state, including in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell and Socorro.

‘We got a call on Tuesday the 8th a week ago [Sept.], and they haven’t really stopped from all over the state since then, ” said New Mexico Game & Fish Department spokeswoman Tristanna Bickford Santa Fe New Mexican. ‘We cannot give an official reason at this point. That would be pure speculation. ‘

Professor Desmond called the phenomenon “terribly frightening” to the Les Crucas Sun News.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said the biologist. “We’re probably losing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of migratory birds.”

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An 'unprecedented' number of birds have fallen from the sky at an alarming rate in New Mexico - and some researchers suspect the wildfires raging on the West Coast may be the cause

An ‘unprecedented’ number of birds have fallen from the sky at an alarming rate in New Mexico – and some researchers suspect the wildfires raging on the West Coast may be the cause

Journalist Austin Fisher spotted a cluster of dozens of dead birds on a hike in northern Rio Arriba County on Sept. 13

Journalist Austin Fisher spotted a cluster of dozens of dead birds on a hike in northern Rio Arriba County on Sept. 13

He posted the video on Twitter

He posted the video on Twitter

Journalist Austin Fisher spotted a cluster of dozens of dead birds on a hike in northern Rio Arriba County on Sept. 13

In a video posted on Twitter by journalist Austin Fisher, images show a cluster of dozens of dead birds he discovered while hiking on Sept. 13 in northern Rio Arriba County.

As in New Mexico, dead birds - including species such as warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, and blackbirds - are also found in abundance in Colorado, Texas, and Mexico

As in New Mexico, dead birds - including species such as warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, and blackbirds - are also found in abundance in Colorado, Texas, and Mexico

As in New Mexico, dead birds – including species such as warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, and blackbirds – are also found in abundance in Colorado, Texas, and Mexico

“I have no idea,” says a baffled Fisher in the video, before waving the camera to reveal what look like dozens of birds lying dead on the ground.

As in New Mexico, dead birds – including such species as warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, and blackbirds – are also found in abundance in Colorado, Texas, and Mexico.

They all appear to be insectivores, with both migratory birds and species found among the deceased throughout the year.

Experts have not been able to quantify the exact number of fatalities or pinpoint the exact cause of the mass deaths.

But one of the most likely contributing factors, biologists say, is the wildfires currently burning in California and other Western states, which may have forced the birds into early migration.

“Birds that migrated before they were ready because of the weather might not have enough fat to survive,” Desmond said. “Some birds may not even have the reserves to start migrating, so they died on the spot.”

An innumerable number of birds - believed to be in the 'hundreds of thousands' region - have been found dead across the state,

An innumerable number of birds - believed to be in the 'hundreds of thousands' region - have been found dead across the state,

A dead bird can be seen on the sidewalk of a New Mexico street above

A dead bird can be seen on the sidewalk of a New Mexico street above

A countless number of birds – believed to be in the ‘hundreds of thousands’ region – have been found dead across the state, including in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell and Socorro

One of the most likely contributing factors, biologists say, are the wildfires currently burning in California and other western states, which may have forced the birds into early migration.

Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft Inc, shared the same theory, saying migration maps show a large number of birds leaving the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 8-9 and flying southwest to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains.

Typically, she said, the birds would fly south via California, but the fires likely disrupted their route.

Those dates also correspond to a cold snap that brought temperatures in New Mexico to record depths last week.

“They could have been affected by toxins from those fires,” Garber told the New Mexican. They could have been forced to leave early without sufficient reserves. They could have been forced on a longer journey they were not ready for. The cold front may have killed insects to eat. ‘

“I’ve seen it suggest millions of birds have died,” she said. ‘On this point, [it] will take more research to determine what happened, but it looks like it could be a perfect storm from a few factors. ‘

Residents and biologists reported that birds behaved strangely before dying.

In an example cited by CNN, birds normally seen in shrubs and trees were seen on the ground, foraging for food and hunting for insects.

Professor Desmond said a number of other birds observed were lethargic and unresponsive, causing them to be hit by cars in numbers “greater than ever before.”

Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft Inc, shared the same theory, saying migration maps show a large number of birds leaving the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 8-9 and flying southwest to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains. Most of the time, she said, the birds would fly south via California, but the fires likely disrupted their route (map of fires and smoke shown above)

Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft Inc, shared the same theory, saying migration maps show a large number of birds leaving the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 8-9 and flying southwest to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains. Most of the time, she said, the birds would fly south via California, but the fires likely disrupted their route (map of fires and smoke shown above)

Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft Inc, shared the same theory, saying migration maps show a large number of birds leaving the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 8-9 and flying southwest to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains. Most of the time, she said, the birds would fly south via California, but the fires likely disrupted their route (map of fires and smoke shown above)

Experts have not been able to quantify the exact number of fatalities or pinpoint an exact cause of the mass die-off, but expect the wildfires to be at least a contributing factor

Experts have not been able to quantify the exact number of fatalities or pinpoint an exact cause of the mass die-off, but expect the wildfires to be at least a contributing factor

Professor Desmond said a number of other birds observed were lethargic and unresponsive, causing them to be hit by cars in numbers 'greater than ever before'

Professor Desmond said a number of other birds observed were lethargic and unresponsive, causing them to be hit by cars in numbers 'greater than ever before'

Experts have not been able to quantify the exact number of fatalities or pinpoint an exact cause of the mass die-off, but expect the wildfires to be at least a contributing factor

At the White Sands Missile Range, swallows – aerial insectivores that don’t walk – were also spotted on the ground and allowed people to approach, she added.

But while the fires and dry weather may have been reinforcing the deaths and strange behavior, Desmond says a number of questions remain.

‘We started seeing isolated deaths in August, so something else is going on besides the weather conditions and we don’t know what it is. So that in itself is very disturbing, ”she said.

Desmond’s department has collected samples of the birds that will eventually be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Forensics Laboratory in Oregon, but that investigation can take up to three months.

‘This is awful. Climate tax plays a role in this. Desmond said.

“We’ve lost 3 billion birds in the US since 1970, and we’ve also seen a massive decline in insects, so an event like this is frightening to these populations and it’s devastating to watch.”

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