Hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds swarmed over Chihuahua, Mexico, last week when something sent them crashing to the ground, leaving dozens of the birds dead along the street.
Security camera footage captured the incident, showing the swarm of blackbirds suddenly descending upon a house. Most of the birds fly away after taking the dip, but dozens were seen left motionless along the sidewalk and street. The incident happened at around 5 a.m. on February 7, according to local reports, and it is believed that the bird species were in the process of migrating to Mexico from northern Canada when they collapsed.
Local media outlet Reporte Cuauhtémoc reported that experts initially believed that the birds could have died from inhaling toxic smoke, or that the birds had made contact with electric power cables that suddenly received a current overload.
But mystery continues to surround the incident, with experts attempting to offer various explanations for what might have happened. On February 9, local radio station La Ranchera de Cuauhtemoc reported that some experts believed the birds had lost stability mid-flight and collided with each other.
Other experts have suggested that a predator could have caused the deadly plunge. Ecologist Richard Broughton told The Guardian that he was almost certain this was the case, as predator birds, such as a raptor, would cause birds to form a tight swirl and drive them towards the ground. The birds stuck in the lower areas of the swarm would have crashed right into the ground, he said.
"This looks like a raptor like a peregrine or hawk has been chasing a flock, like they do with murmurating starlings, and they have crashed as the flock was forced low," he told the outlet. "You can see that they act like a wave at the beginning, as if they are being flushed from above."
And while unusual, this is not the first time such a flock drop has occurred.
Also last week, some people in Pembrokeshire, Wales, reportedly encountered an "eerie sight" of roughly 200 starlings falling from the sky. One man who worked in the area told a local outlet that he heard a large "electrical-type" bang, and then "a load of birds landed on my car."
"It's like there were hundreds of birds in the sky and all of a sudden they just died and fell to the ground," he said. "It was quite surreal last night to be honest with you - not something I have ever experienced before."
Another such situation happened in Delta, British Columbia, in 2018, when about 200 starlings crashed into the ground. The Environment and Climate Change Canada's Wildlife Service later said that the flock had been chased by a larger bird, causing them to swarm, and that 42 of the birds had been killed as soon as they hit the ground.
for more features.