Thunderstorm in Missouri kills more than 1,000 birds in one town, officials say: ‘Dead birds everywhere’

Strong winds are being blamed for a mass-casualty event in the sky.

Officials in Missouri said that gusts from a thunderstorm on Sunday night caused the deaths of more than 1,000 birds, all of them in the town of Sikeston in the southeast part of the state.

Residents reported dead and dying birds between 8 and 9 p.m. on Sunday, around the time a thunderstorm moved through the area, Scott County Conservation Agent Andrew Mothershead said in a statement.

"One resident reported hearing birds hitting the ground near their home during that hour," Mothershead noted.

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Mothershead and conservation department biologist Kevin Brunke were called to the western part of the town after several dead birds were seen near the power plant. He noted carcasses of red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and European starlings.

Gwineth Pearson told KFVS-TV she arrived home to find her grandfather cleaning up the yard.

"He said, ‘well, there is just a ton of dead birds everywhere.’ And he picked up about 60. He had trash bags just full of dead birds," Pearson told the television station.

Pearson was shocked. “I haven’t seen anything like this before,” she told KFVS.

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Mothershead said that in addition to the carcasses, they found several other injured birds.

He confirmed with the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., that the Sikeston area experienced high winds, lightning, and some hail from 8-9 p.m. Sunday.

"Most of the birds observed are near roosting habitat and the species identified commonly travel and roost together in large flocks," he noted. "Based on the condition of the dead birds, the injured birds, location and weather conditions, Brunke and I believe it’s reasonable to conclude that the flock spooked during the weather event, and were caught up in high winds or lightning."

Since the birds couldn't recover in flight, many fell to the ground and died, or became seriously injured.

"While rare, birds can fall victim to volatile weather conditions, which is likely the cause of this incident," he noted, adding that the specimens were collected and will be examined for a more thorough analysis.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory, there are many hazardous weather events associated with thunderstorms.

"Under the right conditions, rainfall from thunderstorms causes flash flooding, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning," the NSSL notes.

In addition to lightning and hail that can kill livestock caught in the open, strong straight-line winds of up to more than 120 mph associated with thunderstorms knock down trees, power lines and mobile homes.