Is massive bird die-off in New Mexico linked to wildfires?

Western wood pewees like this one were among some of the species that experienced what biologists say are unprecedented die-offs in New Mexico. Credit: Becky Matsubara

Biologists say an “unprecedented” number of migratory birds are dying in New Mexico, and they aren’t sure why. But they have an inkling it may have something to do with the wildfires burning on the West Coast. Species of blackbirds, flycatchers, sparrows, swallows, warblers and western wood pewees (Contopus sordidulus) were among the casualties. The first die-off was spotted at White Sands Missile Range and at White Sands National Monument in August, followed by more mass bird deaths in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell Socorro and other areas in New Mexico. Biologists believe they are losing hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, many of which are already threatened. After studying 300 of these corpses, they speculate the wildfires in California and Oregon may have pushed the birds out before they had enough fat stored to survive their migratory journeys.

Read more in Salon.