Right now there is a mystery taking place over the Southwest United States.
Hundreds of thousands of birds have been found dead since the beginning of September, according to wildlife experts in New Mexico and Colorado, where some of the most have been reported.
“[It’s] really strange. Literally, birds dropping out of the sky type of thing,” said Alison Holloran, the executive director Audubon Rockies. “I actually got emails from Texas and New Mexico as well, where they’re also seeing larger numbers of die-offs.”
The crowdsourcing website inaturalist.org has become a spot for people to post pictures of birds they have found as a way to provide more information to biologists and wildlife experts working to figure out why this is happening.
The site reports more than 1,000 incidents have been reported involving 191 different bird species.
“This is a very strange event,” said Travis Duncan, a spokesman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Heavy smoke from the wildfires may have played a part in creating navigation challenges for the birds.”
Duncan says biologists are still performing necropsies to determine a cause, but he says all signs point to a combination of the wildfires raging across the western United States and an early-season cold front at the beginning of September that brought snow and freezing temperatures to parts of the Midwest and Southwest.
Duncan says it may have caused the birds’ main food source, which is insects, to die off, forcing these birds to migrate without enough fat and weight to keep them safe once the cold front hit.
“This is a web of life. You pull one little string and the whole rope is going to move,” said Holloran.