December 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Mistaken dives kill, injure water birds

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Division of Wildlife Resources employee frees a grebe Tuesday at Stratton Pond in Hurricane, Utah, in this photo provided by the department.
(Full-size photo)

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot, football fields and other snow-covered areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground.

Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the injured survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St. George area Monday night.

By midday Wednesday, volunteers had helped rescue more than 3,000 birds, releasing them into a nearby pond. Officials estimate as many as 1,500 birds died.

“They’re just everywhere,” said Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ southern region.

Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of eared grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird likely making its way to the Mexican coast for the winter.

Many of the birds plunged into a Cedar City Wal-Mart parking lot,

“The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right,” Griffin told the Spectrum newspaper in St. George. “So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement.”

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