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Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds are falling out of the sky. Here’s why

Deseret News logo Deseret News 9/17/2020 Herb Scribner
a bird sitting on top of a tree: A flock of sparrows sits on a cable above a field in Dharmsala, India, on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. © Ashwini Bhatia, Associated Press A flock of sparrows sits on a cable above a field in Dharmsala, India, on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020.

Researchers at New Mexico State University continue to investigate why thousands of migratory birds are falling out of the sky and dying across the state.

  • More dead birds have been found in Colorado, Texas and Mexico.
  • The impacted birds include warblers, sparrows, swallows, blackbirds, flycatchers and the western wood pewee, The Sun-News reports.

What’s going on?

On Aug. 20, researchers found a number of dead birds at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, CNN reports.

  • But it wasn’t an isolated incident. Hundreds more found have been found across the state.
  • Birds have been found in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell and Socorro, according to Martha Desmond, a professor at the university’s department of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology.
  • “It’s just terrible,” Desmond told CNN. “The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that.”

Why are they dying?

Multiple researchers are looking into whether or not the deaths might be tied to wildfire smoke, according to The New York Times.

The thinking goes that the smoke plumes have altered migration routes, which has led to the birds breathing in more toxins than normal.

  • “Birds who migrated before they were ready because of the weather might have not had enough fat to survive,” Desmond told CNN. “Some birds might have not even had the reserves to start migrating so they died in place.”
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