“Do not forget that the ashes falling from the sky are all that remains of the pine and grass and thistle and bear and coyote and deer and mouse that could not escape.” Sadee
Fires have misplaced many birds in our area as well. Please consider feeding and watering the passing birds. Sonoma County is on the migratory bird flight path. Thank you…(some very profound comments below)
‘Ecological Disaster on Massive Scale’: Hundreds of Thousands of Dead Migratory Birds in Southwest Linked to Wildfires, Climate Crisis
“The fact that we’re finding hundreds of these birds dying, just kind of falling out of the sky is extremely alarming.”
by Julia Conley, staff writer
A combination of factors—all related to the climate crisis—is believed to be behind one of the largest mass bird die-off events in recent memory in the Southwest, according to biologists.
Scientists say thousands of dead migratory birds have been found across states including New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado in recent weeks as the American West faces wildfires that have burned through millions of acres in matter of days.
Dr. Martha Desmond, a biology professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU), told The Guardian that the die-off, which was first detected in late August, is a “national tragedy.”
“I collected over a dozen in just a two-mile stretch in front of my house,” Desmond told the newspaper. “To see this and to be picking up these carcasses and realizing how widespread this is, is personally devastating.”
Allison Salas, a graduate student at NMSU, reported on Twitter that the university is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to understand the causes of the die-off, which ornithologists have linked to smoke from the wildfires as well as a drought in the Southwest.
“The fact that we’re finding hundreds of these birds dying, just kind of falling out of the sky is extremely alarming,” Salas told The Guardian. “The volume of carcasses that we have found has literally given me chills.”
“It’s different this year than other years. We’ve had plenty of hot summers but very few that have had these huge-scale fires combined with heat combined with drought.”
—Dr. Andrew Farnsworth, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Researchers say the birds are mainly migratory birds—such as warblers, swallows, and flycatchers—which travel to Central and South America from Canada and Alaska each year as the weather grows colder. Resident bird species don’t appear to be affected.
Based on the large volumes of dead birds found throughout the region since August 20, when the first group was found at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, ornithologists believe thousands of birds could already be dead. Desmond told the Las Cruces Sun News that “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of migratory birds” could be lost in the die-off.
When migrating from Canada, bird species must stop every few days to gather food, drink water, and rest. With wildfires overwhelming the West Coast, scientists say birds may have been pushed into desert areas in New Mexico—which has been suffering from a drought—where food and water sources are scarce.
Changes in the birds’ northern habitat, caused by the heating of the planet, may also have pushed the species to begin their migration earlier than usual this year, before building up fat reserves which would have helped sustain them on the journey.
“We’re kind of coming at them from all sides,” Salas told The Guardian. “If we don’t do anything to protect their habitat we’re going to lose large numbers of the populations of several species.”
Desmond told WBUR that upon arriving in the drought-stricken Southwest, “a lot of birds up north were probably caught off guard.”
Since August 20, two doctoral candidates at the University of New Mexico discovered 305 dead birds in the northern part of the state and linked the deaths to starvation. Trish Cutler, a wildlife biologist at White Sands Missile Range, told KOB, a local TV station in Albuquerque, that “a couple of hundred” dead birds were found at the weapons testing site last week, compared with the fewer than half a dozen carcasses that are found there on a weekly basis.
Dr. Andrew Farnsworth of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology told the New York Times that extremely poor air quality in the West, caused by the wildfires, is likely a contributing factor to the die-off as well.
“It’s different this year than other years,” Farnsworth told the Times. “We’ve had plenty of hot summers but very few that have had these huge-scale fires combined with heat combined with drought.”
Environmental justice advocates on social media decried the “ecological disaster” detected in the Southwest.
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Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring —-
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
The cyclical refrains of nature have been broken by humans. There is no more assurance that what many of us knew as spring (bursting with birdsong, flora, fauna) will come after winter.
There is no more assurance that dawn comes after night as many are under a blanket of smoke that obliterates the sun and the moon. Day and night merge into one.
Gone are the “reserves of strength” that many of us have turned to . . . .
I found about 20 dead birds in two days on trails within a mile of my home in Northern New Mexico. Didn’t even get off the trail. Most were beautiful Wilson’s Warblers, but there were others. Heart breaking. Living ones would barely fly away from me as I walked up close to them.
It’s really disturbing. I’ve lived on this property over 35 years. Occasionally I see the remains of a bird that was caught by another animal, but to see bird carcasses scattered around the house makes me want to cry. Three just walking from my car to the house and two more in the same place the next day.
Anthropogenic mass extinction is happening right now.
The death of all the beautiful non-human species who evolved here with us is a cause for mourning.
Mass die-offs are ongoing.
We will be the last species to die off, leaving behind a smoldering, urbanized, dying biosphere.
In view of consistent smoke in the 150-500 ppm up and down the Pacific flyway, its no surprise that the birds are seriously compromised by the time they get to the Southwestern US. Due to thick smoke here, I haven’t taken a deep breath in weeks even though I am hundreds of miles from the nearest wild fire.
But a New Green Deal would be soooo expensive…reallocating money from ever growing corporate welfare programs, especially for the military industrial media infotainment complex (MIMIC), and tax cuts for billionaires. The billionaires are on such a roll buying politicians around the world (now that they own the US gubmit) we wouldn’t want to defund that effort.
The greatest tragedy is not that the species called homo-sapien might go extinct. It is that in so doing they are taking the rest of the living world and all of these other species with them.