Earlier this week, Walmart contributed to the death of over a thousand migratory birds. But the culprit wasn’t prolific plastic bags or a toxic fertilizer–it was the parking lot.
A flock of birds looking for a place to rest mistook a snow-covered Walmart parking lot in Utah for a body of water and plummeted to the ground in what one state wildlife expert called the worst mass bird crash she’d ever seen.
Volunteers that arrived to help sort out the mess surmised that the birds, eared grebes, saw the reflection of the parking lot’s lights on the snow and thought that it was the surface of lake.
Over 3,000 grebes could be seen littering the parking lot as well as a nearby football field and several other snow-covered areas in St. George, Utah. Rescue volunteers, many of which were simply town residents, worked quickly to capture those birds that were not seriously injured, and release them into a nearby pond. There’s no final count on how many died, although officials estimate it was over 1,500.
Lynn Chamberlain, Outreach Manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife, said this isn’t the first time they’ve seen birds become confused by parking lot lights.
“There were 2-4 inches of snow on the ground and there was heavy cloud cover,” said Chamberlain. The snow was lightly falling and the birds dropped to a lower elevation to avoid the storm. ”It has happened before and it is always the same kind of birds in the same kinds of conditions.”
More than 175 mass death events, in which more than 1,000 birds died, have been reported to the National Wildlife Heath Center in the past 10 years. Causes for those die-offs included disease, weather, poisoning, trauma and starvation.
Image Credit: Flickr – Perfect Picture Pose