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Flock Of Birds Mistake Walmart Parking Lot For Pond

Flock Of Birds Mistake Walmart Parking Lot For Pond

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.

Related Reading:

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Image Credit: Flickr – Perfect Picture Pose

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5:03AM PST on Mar 6, 2013

Can our impact on the birds be minimised?

7:00PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

I'm hardly a fan of Walmart, but I really don't see how they can be blamed for this. It's a tragedy, yes, but focus more on the people who worked to help the birds than the fact that the parking lot happened to be a Walmart lot.

9:52AM PST on Jan 13, 2012

Something should be done to avoid this from happening in the future....Maybe some kind of safety net put up during this season???

12:51PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Unbelievable. What a freak accident!

7:43AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Aww, poor birds!

10:34AM PST on Jan 1, 2012

Sad! This cannot be allowed to happen again.

12:08PM PST on Dec 30, 2011


10:36AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Very sad. I guess it's like when a bird flies into a window pane. They get fooled visually.

9:47AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Hunter is right--this is not Wal-mart's fault. These events have happened before. I remember seeing an article from the early 60s in which hundreds of gulls collapsed in a snow-covered parking lot, and another in which albatrosses (!) somehow found they're way thousands of miles inland collapsed in a snow covered football field.

The fact is that wide open fields covered in ice or snow at night with the moon just right (or wrong in this case) can be mistaken for a lake in the moonlight by water-going birds.

9:10AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

It is not in any way Walmarts fault. It could've happened to any store with a lit up parking lot, including a small business. Very unfortunate, but lets not jump to conclusions and play the blame game because of nature and an optical illusion on the birds part.

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