New Mexico residents have come across dead birds on hiking trails, in missile ranges and other locations in the state, NBC News reported.
Multiple agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and the White Sands Missile Range, are investigating the issue.
While there is no concrete theory as to what is causing the deaths, experts think it is possible that it’s due to a cold front that hit New Mexico last week, recent droughts, or the massive wildfires in the West.
Various migratory species—including warblers, bluebirds, sparrows, blackbirds, the western wood pewee and flycatchers—have been affected and dead birds have also been spotted in Colorado, Texas and Mexico, CNN reported.
Martha Desmond, a professor at New Mexico State University’s department of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology, told CNN, “This is devastating. Climate charge is playing a role in this.” Desmond said. “We lost 3 billion birds in the US since 1970 and we’ve also seen a tremendous decline in insects, so an event like this is terrifying to these populations and it’s devastating to see.”
The birds will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Oregon for necropsies which may help determine a cause of death, but results are expected to take weeks. Desmond told NBC News that the deaths could have been caused by wildfires in the West, adding, “There may have been some damage to these birds in their lungs.” Scientists are asking the public to flag any sightings of dead birds to an online database, and safely collect them for scientists to study.