Thousands of songbirds dying in southwest US from starvation

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In the southwestern United States, thousands of birds have been falling from the sky as a result of long term starvation, made worse by unusual cold spells likely linked to the climate crisis, scientists have stated.

According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, press release earlier this month, necropsies reveal 80% of the birds examined showed symptoms of emaciation.

“The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center has analyzed representative samples of the migratory songbirds collected, cataloged and sent for analyses by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish biologists, in early September. The lab report indicates that the single abnormality shared by nearly all birds was body condition ranging from poor to severely emaciated.”

Flycatchers, swallows and warblers were typical of the migratory birds dying.

“The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, located in Madison, Wis., is renowned for the thoroughness of the diagnostic tests for wildlife disease diagnosis and management. The center conducted numerous tests during analyses, ruling out contagious bacterial disease, contagious viral disease including avian influenza and Newcastle disease and parasites as cause of death, as well as finding no evidence of smoke poisoning or pesticide poisoning.”

Scientists found the birds’ wings had been severely shrunken, blood was found in their intestinal tract, kidney failure as well  and an overall loss of muscle and body fat.

The Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership event reporting system stated nearly 10,000 of the dead birds had been supplied by citizens. The first deaths were reported in August with reports of birds appearing lethargic and congregating in groups before dying. When a cold spell occurred in September, food became scarce, and birds became disoriented flying into buildings and cars before dying.

The Guardian reports in an interview with Martha Desmond, a professor in the biology department at New Mexico State University, who collected some of the dead birds, stated the animals had become so emaciated they actually had to turn to wasting their major flight muscles, and this is something that didn’t happen overnight.

Jonathan Sleeman, director of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, stated he could not say if this event was directly related to climate change, but acknowledged that it is making extreme weather events more likely.

(Photos via screenshots from Audubon Society)

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2 replies
  1. Bunny Peters says:

    My in-laws in Albuquerque have always kept bird feeders in their yards. The feeders always have “takers”……

    This is absolutely heartbreaking to see so many emaciated birds. And to know that tens of thousands of them have died due to starvation……..

    I think there’s more ecological damage to come in the future from climate changes…..


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