Hundreds of Waterfowl Fall from the Sky in Oregon as Lunar Eclipse Coincides With Snowstorm

by Taylor Cunningham
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty

At least 30 Oregon waterfowl died in a bizarre mass event last week—and hundreds more were injured.

KTVZ News reports that residents in central and eastern parts of the state reported that tundra swans, snow geese, and other water birds fell from the sky by the dozens during the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

Officials later announced that a lunar eclipse coincided with a severe snowstorm the night prior. They believe that birds became disoriented. Because of that, they flew into telephone poles, power lines, or other structures and crashed to the ground.

Staff with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to reports of injured waterfowl. But unfortunately, most of the animals could not be saved. However, one tundra swan is recuperating at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital in Bend called Think Wild.

According to the hospital’s lead veterinarian, Dr. Laura Acevedo, the bird currently cannot fly, but she believes it will make a full recovery.

“We found no significant fractures or injuries,” she told the publication. “But the swan does have bruising and likely soft tissue damage that will need time to heal. Think Wild will provide ample space, food, medication for pain management, and time for recovery.”

Animal Hospital on High Alert with Waterfowl Due to Ongoing Bird Flu Outbreak

Because of the ongoing High Path Avian Influenza outbreak, staff is taking special precautions while caring for the swan. It is currently resting in quarantine. And the hospital will continue to follow strict protocols until the bird can return to the wild. However, Acevedo noted that the animal has no signs of illness.

“Because the casualties and injuries during the event were clearly caused by collisions with power lines and the ground, district biologists are fairly confident that HPAI is not a factor,” she added. “Wildlife rehabilitators in the state are still prohibited from accepting waterfowl patients except in rare cases such as this casualty event.”

Tundra swans typically fly through Oregon and neighboring states during spring and fall migrations in groups that can include as many as 100 birds. The pass through the Pacific Northwest on their way California’s Central Valley.

The waterfowl is not threatened with around 193,000 living in North America. But biologists worry that the population is dwindling due to climate change and habitat loss. This year caused more damage to the species because Oregon has been experiencing unusually warm weather this fall. And the warmth has been peppered with extreme winter storms like the blizzard that helped create the mass die-off earlier this month.