British Columbia

Mysterious bird kill in Delta solved, say wildlife experts

An evasive manoeuvre gone wrong may be to blame for the mysterious death of dozens of birds in Delta earlier this month.

Flock was being chased by a predatory bird and failed to pull up in time, say scientists

About 200 birds collided with the pavement and 42 birds died on impact. (Belle Puri/CBC)

An evasive manoeuvre gone wrong may be to blame for the mysterious death of dozens of birds in Delta earlier this month.

On Sept. 14, Kevin Beech witnessed what he called a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. He was heading to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal when he saw the birds crash to the roadway.

A picture he posted on Facebook was shared hundreds of times.

The Canadian Wildlife Service said in a statement that a witness came forward saying a much larger bird was chasing the flock of European starlings when they swooped toward the ground and then pulled back up.

However, "the tail-end of the flock didn't pull up in time," the statement said.

European starlings can form very large flocks and execute amazing swooping and whirling patterns—called a murmuration—to avoid a predatory bird, said the statement.

About 200 birds collided with the pavement and 42 birds died on impact. The majority of the flock recovered.

Most of the birds that died were juveniles and suffered acute trauma from compressive chest injuries.

A number of dead birds littered the pavement after diving from the sky. (Kevin Beech)

A necropsy performed by a veterinary pathologist from B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture found none of the birds suffered from infectious disease or intoxication.

Beech said he was surprised to hear the explanation.

"Do eagles attack flocks of birds? I don't know."

With files from Belle Puri

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