Migratory Birds in New Mexico Dying By ‘Hundreds of Thousands, If Not Millions’

by Jon D. B.
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An unprecedented number of migratory birds are dying in droves throughout New Mexico and the American West.

Experts are doing all they can to solve the mystery, but have asked the public for help as the situation has become overwhelming. Martha Desmond, a professor at NMSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, reports that various species of migratory birds are dying in “unprecedented” numbers. The causes are unknown, she adds.

“It is terribly frightening… We’ve never seen anything like this. … We’re losing probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of migratory birds.”

Martha Desmond, NMSU

Deaths of Migratory Birds No Longer an Isolated Incident

Speaking further to local Las Cruses Sun-News, Desmond notes that in August, large numbers of birds were found dead at White Sands Missile Range. A similar mass die-off at White Sands National Monument followed. Each were thought to be isolated incidents, Desmond said. Until now.

To make matters worse, reports began flooding in of birds behaving erratically, then dying in large numbers across New Mexico. Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell, Socorro and many other locations across NM are adding cases to the phenomenon. Whatever is killing the migratory birds is spreading, and is further evidence of strange behavior by wildlife in the area.

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AYellow Warbler, one of the affected species, held by PRBO Conservation biologist Chris McCreedy (Photo credit: Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, many of the afflicted species are already threatened, rare, or endangered. Those impacted include warblers, sparrows, swallows, blackbirds, flycatchers, and the western wood pewee, according to LCS-N.

“A number of these species are already in trouble. They are already experiencing huge population declines and then to have a traumatic event like this is – it’s devastating.” 

Martha Desmond, NMSU

Trish Cutler, a fellow wildlife biologist at WSMR, notes that their resident New Mexico species seem to be far less affected than the migratory birds:

“People have been reporting that the birds look sleepy … they’re just really lethargic… One thing we’re not seeing is our resident birds mixed in with these dead birds. We have resident birds that live here, some of them migrate and some of them don’t, but we’re not getting birds like roadrunners or quail or doves.” 

Trish Cutler, WSMR

But what could be causing such mass die-offs?

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