Things That Make You Go Hmmm . . .

Things That Make You Go Hmmm . . .

Last week the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reported the sudden deaths of thousands of water birds at the south end of the Salton Sea—the birds died between January 8th and 17th.

Reports of the massive die-off began trickling in January 8th.    CDFW investigated immediately and found over a thousand bird carcasses concentrated in one area. Over the next week staff from CDFW and San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR) collected more than 1,200 carcasses. 

Most of the carcasses were incinerated, but several specimens were shipped to the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to determine the cause of death. The samples tested positive for avian cholera.

Avian cholera is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. According to the CDFW, outbreaks occur every winter in California and may result in the deaths of thousands of birds. I did not know that . . . maybe such incidents are not widely reported. Hmmm?

CDFW officials also say avian cholera can affect rabbits and mice but not other mammals and it is not considered a high-risk disease for humans, however they also warned hunters to always cook their game thoroughly—hmmm?

It was once believed that almost all birds infected with avian cholera died suddenly of the disease however recent studies proved some birds survive and become carriers of the bacteria becoming likely sources of infection for other birds. 

In recent years, the fate of fish and fowl at Salton Sea has become as tragic as the current fate of the sea itself, and yet news of the sudden death of thousands of birds in a single location is still shocking to most, though hardly an aberration.       

I remember reporting on an incident a few years back when dozens of birds fell from the sky over Rim of the World High School in the San Bernardino mountains. Those deaths occurred within days of a similar event in San Diego County. 

All over the world there is a growing number of recorded incidents of mysterious mass bird deaths. For example, on New Year’s Eve 2011, thousands of dead birds rained down on an Arkansas town. Around the same time as the Arkansas event occurred, similar mass bird deaths occurred in Louisiana and in Europe. 

According to wildlife experts at the time, the thousands of birds that dropped from the sky in Arkansas died of blunt force trauma. “They collided with cars, trees, buildings, and other stationary objects,” the ornithologist said. Hmmm… 

On the afternoon of January 30, 2018 dead crows fell from the sky over Portland, Oregon. In February 2018, hundreds of dead starlings fell to earth—experts claimed they collided with each other. Hmmm. That same month, hundreds of dead starlings dropped from the skies over Utah.  

The number of mysterious mass bird deaths are many. From Australia to Austin, Texas, from Boise, Idaho to Paris, France, such incidents continue to be recorded.    

There are at least 10 million birds in North America according to one ornithologist—maybe as many as 20 billion and almost half of them die each year due to natural causes. This is interesting information for a round of Jeopardy, but it fails to explain what is causing birds of varying species to fall dead from the sky en masse at random intervals all over the world.   

The answers from experts continue to be as varied as the incidents themselves—avian cholera, loud noises, crashes into trees, buildings and each other, sudden drops in temperature, etc. It leaves me wondering about the role climate change may be playing in these mysterious, unnerving events.

I’m just wondering. And, and as always, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

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