A mystery is unfolding in New Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of migratory birds have dropped dead from the sky in recent weeks.
Based on photos, video and written observations from across the state, Martha Desmond, a professor at New Mexico State University’s department of fish, wildlife, and conservation ecology, speculated the death toll could be in the hundreds of thousands, “if not millions.”
She told the Las Cruces Sun News on Monday the mass die-off was “unprecedented,” noting that the ongoing incident could have been triggered by several different things. Desmond suggested drought conditions brought on by the wildfires raging nearby could be the cause while also noting the unseasonable chill and early snowfall in northern New Mexico could be a factor.
But southern parts of the state “shouldn’t be cold enough to kill birds,” she added. “Birds migrate … with cold fronts, so it’s actually these fronts that push them south, that help them move.”
In order to better understand the phenomenon, biologists from NMSU and White Sands Missile Range examined nearly 300 carcasses gathered at the range and in Doña Ana County. They will all be sent off for lab analysis, but the results will likely take weeks.
Residents meanwhile, have been asked to report any dead bird sightings in their area to an online database, and to collect the dead birds when possible so that researchers can study them more closely.