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Monday, July 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mistaking Snow For Water, 3,000 Birds Land With Thud

Salt Lake Tribune

Like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” about 3,000 waterfowl fell out of the sky and landed with a thud instead of a splash in Millard County last week after mistaking snow-covered fields for bodies of water.

Once on the ground, the eared grebes, which have giant webbed feet set far back on their bodies, floundered helplessly because they can only become airborne from water.

Lynn Zubeck, with the Division of Wildlife Resources in Delta, theorized the birds mistook lights reflecting off snow-covered fields for water and landed - hard.

While several hundred of the grebes were found dead in the snow, Zubeck said more than 2,700 of the birds survived.

The grebes began dropping from the sky on Jan. 13. Officials of the DWR and residents worked for three days collecting the stunned birds and releasing them at the Clear Lake Waterfowl Management Area, about 22 miles south of Delta.

The duck-like grebe, about the size of a pigeon, lives on small fish and insects and uses its big, three-toed feet to run across the water to take off.

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