LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — Biologists are asking the public for help as they investigate a statewide die-off among migratory birds in New Mexico.
The state Game and Fish Department is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to determine the number of deaths and reason for the occurrence. They’re asking people to use the iNaturalist app to upload photos and other information to help track the event.
Professor Martha Desmond at New Mexico State University said that reports from around the state indicate migratory species are dying at unprecedented numbers, which could be caused by multiple conditions from drought to wildfires.
Biologists from the university and White Sands Missile Range examined about 300 carcasses earlier this month gathered in the region, but further observations could place casualties in the hundreds of thousands, “if not millions,” Desmond said.
Migratory song birds such as warblers and swallows account for most of the birds that have been collected so far.
Residents have reported birds dying in groups and living birds exhibiting lethargic and unusual behavior such as not eating, flying low or gathering on the ground and being hit by vehicles, experts said. The species did not include native species such as roadrunner or quail.
The New Mexico Wildlife Center in Espanola confirmed that the state Department of Game and Fish would collect bird carcasses from their facility for laboratory analysis.
Desmond said the collected carcasses will be sent to a lab but results could take weeks.
She argued that the birds could be impacted by unseasonable cold weather and early snowfall but said southern New Mexico temperatures should not be cold enough to kill the animals.
Audubon New Mexico Executive Director Jon Hayes also said there were likely overlapping factors in the die-off, but without necropsies they were guessing as to the cause.