Migratory bird die-off blamed on smoke from wildfires, snowstorm

Migratory bird die-off blamed on smoke from wildfires, snowstorm
FILE PHOTO: Thousands, maybe millions, of migratory birds have died throughout the West Coast and biologists believe a combination of smoke from wildfires, a summer drought and a cold snap from snowstorms are to blame. (Kranich17/Pixabay/Kranich17/Pixabay)

Thousands, maybe millions, of migratory birds have died throughout the West Coast and biologists believe a combination of smoke from wildfires, a summer drought and a cold snap from snowstorms are to blame.

“If you think 2020 is a tough year for people, try being a migratory songbird,” Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife told KCNC. “These small birds that move back and forth annually between North and South America have been hit by several environmental factors that have formed a bird’s worst-case-scenario. Drought has made for a tough summer. Follow that with a freak early winter storm system that prompted migration before many birds were physically ready and it’s bad enough. Throw in the heavy smoke from wildfires and it is more than many of these birds can handle.”

In Colorado, there were reports of dead warblers, western wood pewees and bluebirds. Fires across the state started at the peak season for migratory song birds, KCNC reported. Wildlife officials believe the bird populations can rebound.

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Researchers at universities in states including New Mexico and are looking at several possible factors, The New York Times reported.

“It’s different this year than other years,” Andrew Farnsworth, a senior research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 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.”

The California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic is relying on birders in states including California, Texas and Arizona to report bird deaths as part of the Southwest Avian Mortality Project.

Wildlife officials in New Mexico said it could take some time before an exact cause of death will be determined.