More than 4,000 birds crash-land in parking lot

In this photo provided by Utah Division of Wildlife Services, a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employee frees some surviving grebes on Dec. 13, 2011 at Stratton Pond in Hurricane, Utah after thousands of the birds crash landed throughout Southern Utah on Monday night. Officials say storm clouds above city lights Monday night probably confused thousands of grebes, which are a duck-like aquatic bird that migrates south for the winter. Thousands of the birds were killed, but more than 2,000 had been rescued by Tuesday evening. The survivors were released into Washington County bodies.
Lynn Chamberlain,Utah Division of Wildlife Services

CEDAR CITY, Utah - Authorities were shocked to find more than 4,000 birds scattered across a local Utah Wal-Mart parking lot on Monday night.

According to CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah, witnesses claimed thousands of the creatures had crash-landed in the parking area. At least 1,500 Eared Grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird, which slammed into the pavement were dead. Fortunately, Utah Department of Wildlife Resource officials and volunteers were able to rescue up to 3,000 of the large flock.

A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employee frees some surviving grebes on Dec. 13, 2011 at Stratton Pond in Hurricane, Utah.
Lynn Chamberlain,Utah Division of Wildlife Services

According to The Spectrum, officials think the birds were migrating to Mexico and decided to take a rest in the Wal-Mart parking lot, which they mistook for a large body of water since the Eared Grebes can only take off from water surfaces. Officials suspect the birds didn't compensate for landing on the hard pavement.

They added to KUTV that a storm in the area probably lead to the birds' confusion.

"The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right," Teresa Griffin, of the state's wildlife department, told The Spectrum. "So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement."

Officials said to the Salt Lake City Tribune that birds have crash landed there before, but it rarely happens and never in such large numbers.

Officials and volunteers took the survivors to nearby unfrozen bodies of water like Stratton Pond near Hurricane and Quail Lake near St. George.