1,500 birds died after flying into several skyscrapers in Philadelphia last week, leaving many shocked as to why, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The incident occurred in Center City, Philadelphia, on Friday last week and was only discovered after a bystander Stephen Maciejewski was walking down the sidewalk only to notice the dead birds piled up. Maciejewski told the Philadelphia Inquirer his story.
“So many birds were falling out of the sky, we didn’t know what was going on,” he said, choking up. “It was a really catastrophic event. The last time something like this happened was in 1948.”
Maciejewski told the Inquirer that he had collected just 400 birds between 5 and 8 a.m. in the radius he regularly covers roughly spanning 17th to 19th Streets between Market Street and JFK Boulevard.
“There were so many, I was picking up five at a time,” Maciejewski said. “One guy from building maintenance dumped 75 living and dead birds in front of me as if it were a collection.”
Maciejewski said he regularly collects 20-30 birds but what took place on Friday, was unusual and horrifying. So why so many birds? According to Maciejewski “It’s complicated.” However, it appears weather events lined up during what was likely the peak of migratory birds’ flight from Canada, Maine, Upstate New York, and elsewhere toward Central and South America. A sudden plunge in temperatures could have encouraged the birds to start their flights en-masse. But ultimately we don’t know and it could be any number of factors.
The U.S. House of Representatives in January of last year introduced the Bird-Safe Buildings Act of 2019. If approved, it would require buildings to use methods designed to eliminate how many birds crash into them. Over the years there have been many birds just falling and dropping dead out of the sky. The reasoning has varied from everything to bird flu to climate changing.
This year alone thousands of birds have been found dead falling out of the sky if 2020 wasn’t weird enough. Scientists have even reported a mass die-off of migratory birds across the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Researchers estimate hundreds of thousands to possibly up to a million birds have died in recent weeks. Scientists say they are unsure of the exact reasons for the deaths, but say, several factors including climate change and the ongoing wildfires could be possible reasons for the deaths, Insider reported.
Avian ecologist Martha Desmond, of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, called the die-off “unprecedented.” Desmond said scientists are unsure how many birds are dying but has said the number could easily be in the “hundreds of thousands”, according to NBC.
“It’s enormous, the extent of this,” Desmond told Audubon. “We haven’t counted all the species yet, but there are lots of species involved.”
Online reports show mass deaths in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska, as well as in four states in Mexico, and include migratory species as varied as owls, hummingbirds, loons, and woodpeckers, many of which were migrating south to wintering grounds.
Many of the dead birds have little fat reserves or muscle mass remaining, and some seem to have literally dropped from the sky mid-flight.
“It could be a combination of things. It could be something that’s still completely unknown to us,” Allison Salas, a graduate student at New Mexico State University, told The Guardian. “The fact that we’re finding hundreds of these birds dying, just kind of falling out of the sky is extremely alarming … The volume of carcasses that we have found has literally given me chills.”
The dead birds from several states are being analyzed by scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics lab in Oregon and the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin. Researchers are urging birdwatchers and volunteers to log sightings of dead birds on the website iNaturalist and contact state Fish and Game agencies or the USFWS through its website or a telephone call.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the paramyxovirus caused some 100 Eurasian collared doves to drop dead directly out of the sky. That virus is said to only infect chickens, turkeys, doves, and pigeons. It was further, reported by the World Health Organization that the avian flu influenza A(H9N2) had broken out in China around the same time. There is no available data at this time to suggest there that either virus is the cause of the mass of bird deaths we are seeing now.