LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Biologists at New Mexico State University are trying to determine why hundreds of thousands of migratory birds have been found dead across the state in recent weeks.
The “unprecedented” number of bird deaths is puzzling, but the lack of a clear-cut cause for the deaths is even more troubling, Martha Desmond, a professor at the university’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, told the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“It is terribly frightening. We’ve never seen anything like this,” Desmond said.
According to CNN, a large number of dead birds was first discovered Aug. 20 at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument and was thought to be an isolated incident. But the numbers – and locations – began spreading statewide, piquing curiosity and sparking alarm.
“The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that,” Desmond told the network.
The affected birds have included warblers, sparrows, swallows, blackbirds, flycatchers and the western wood pewee, the Sun-News reported.
"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, Desmond told the newspaper.
Dead migratory birds have also been found in Colorado, Texas and Mexico, and Desmond’s team, alongside White Sands biologists, began identifying, cataloging and examining about 300 bird carcasses on Saturday, CNN reported.