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

by Jon D. B.

What is Causing such mass die-offs in New Mexico?

While local species may be spared, such an enormous loss of migratory birds is catastrophic for the western ecosystem.

Birds dying in such numbers, possibly millions, within New Mexico is almost unheard of. According to Desmond’s work on the deceased specimens, the birds have molted. This means each bird is replacing their feathers in preparation for their flight south before their cause of death, “You have to be healthy to do that,” Desmond adds, “but somewhere after that, as they initiated their migratory route, they got in trouble.”

One likely cause, the biologists note, are the wildfires currently raging in California and the Pacific Northwest. It isn’t the fires or resulting smoke that are killing the birds, however. Instead, Desmond notes the migratory species may have been forced into a migration they weren’t prepared for.

“They may have been pushed out before they were ready to migrate… They have to put on a certain amount of fat for them to be able to survive the migration. These birds migrate at night and they get up in the jet stream, and they might migrate for three nights in succession, they’ll come down and they’ll feed like crazy, put on more fat and go again.” 

Martha Desmond, NMSU

Further scientific study is needed to get to the cause of the catastrophic loss.