Mass Bird Deaths May Not Be Such A Mystery - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Mass Bird Deaths May Not Be Such A Mystery


by Heather Graf

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - The mystery bird deaths sparking speculation all over the country may not be a mystery after all.  Some said the explanation everyone's looking for is right here in Middle Tennessee.

About 150 red-winged blackbirds were found dead along Highway 70 in Wilson County just last week. Upon finding them, wildlife officials there knew right away who to call.

That's because they remembered a similar incident that happened last February in Montgomery County. Residents on Hornbuckle Road remember it as well.

"It was bad, it really was.  There were birds everywhere, it was hard to imagine that many birds could just fall dead, but it did happen," said resident Sam Mosley.

Concerned residents quickly contacted the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

"We found probably 300 or 400 birds there, all red-winged blackbirds, or starlings," said Montgomery County Wildlife Officer Dale Grandstaff.  "Some of them had broken necks, broken pelvises, broken wings, and fractured skulls."

Grandstaff sent several of the birds off for testing, but says toxicology reports came back negative.  After several weeks of tests and studies, he determined heavy fog and power lines are what caused the birds' death.  He's fairly certain testing in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky will eventually reach a similar conclusion, especially since those cases also involve red-winged blackbirds and starlings.

"The best way to describe it would be when you hear about those 100 car pile-ups on the interstate, when they hit a fog bank," Grandstaff said. "You can't see what's in front of you and you're driving along, and all of a sudden you're slamming into something in front of you.  It's a similar situation, but with a flock of birds."

Wildlife officers said these mass bird deaths are actually quite common with red-winged blackbirds, because they fly so close together.


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