Jon Hayes Profile picture
14 Sep, 14 tweets, 5 min read
Hey folks, this news continues to get attention (rightly so) so here’s a quick explainer thread to provide folks some additional context.…
Around the middle of last week news of troubling bird sightings started circulating in the NM bird conservation community. People were finding large numbers of migratory birds either dead or extremely lethargic. Pretty soon reports began coming in from around the state.
I myself went down to the Bosque trail in ABQ last Thursday night for a bike ride and had to help multiple Violet-green Swallows off the trail where they appeared to be resting. Others where dead on the side of the trail.
At this point it is impossible to know the scale of this mortality and we likely never will given that much of this state is unexplored on any given day and encounters only happen in places where there are people. A death toll in the 5-6 figure range is not unreasonable to expect
The driver(s) of this mortality event are unknown at this point although @NMDGF and @USFWS are conducting necropsies in order to learn more.
If you find carcasses that appear to be related to this event you can bring them to the Cottonwood Animal Clinic in Rio Rancho or the NM Wildlife Center in Espanola
It’s highly likely that the major cold front that pushed through on Tuesday (9/8) and brought cold temperatures, snow, and extremely high winds (a neighbor of ours clocked gusts up to 95 mph in Placitas) made for deadly conditions for migrating birds.
It’s important to remember that migration is an incredible feat of endurance and strength even in the best conditions. These birds depend on their energy stores to fly hundreds of miles at a time. When they take a break along their journey they are literally starving.
Furthermore, if they are battling hurricane force winds during their journey it makes the battle to survive all the more challenging.
Early reports indicate that the body condition of these birds is extremely poor, meaning they are malnourished and their energy stores are depleted. Primarily these have been insect eating birds but seed-eaters have also been reported.
Along with the extreme weather I mentioned. Drought conditions at stopover sites, smoke from wildfires, and limited food availability are all possible contributors. These are all also conditions that we are likely to see more often in a human-altered climate.
While this event is heartbreaking and troubling, it’s likely that these populations will bounce back. Birds can be pretty resilient. So I would not expect to see lasting impacts from this die-off in bird populations. However…
If we don’t get our shit together and take steps to move our economy away from its carbon dependence while also investing in climate adaptation strategies that can mitigate the worst impacts, scenes like this will become a common sight.

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