Outdoors

Oregon storms blast swallows; thousands dead

A violet-green swallow hunts bugs in the air. (Staff photo)
A violet-green swallow hunts bugs in the air. (Staff photo)

WILDLIFE — Barn swallows and violet-greens took a harsh blow from storms and high winds that hammered Western Oregon in the past week.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians received multiple Monday about dead and dying swallows. 

Groups of 10 to 200 swallows were reported dead or near death in barns and other structures where they perch, the agency reports.  Mortality appears to be greater closer to rivers and standing water where the birds concentrate.

Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian, estimates that thousands of birds have died. “This type of mortality event is unprecedented and considered a rare and unusual event,” said Gillin. “The effect on bird populations is unknown.”

A number of birds were examined at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and pathologists determined the swallows were thin and had not eaten recently with their cause of death most likely being weather-related starvation. Veterinarians believe that the four consecutive days of rain and wind prevented the swallows from feeding at a time when they would normally be preparing for winter migration.

September was the wettest on record for the Willamette Valley.

Swallows feed on insects during flight and inclement weather events can have an effect on young and weaker birds that cannot take in enough food to meet their energy requirements. Swallows are seasonal migrants to Oregon and migrate to Central and South America during winter.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

By Rich Landers richl@spokesman.com (509) 459-5508


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