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article imageMigratory birds in Utah crash land in Walmart parking lot

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 14, 2011 in Environment
Cedar City - Thousands of migratory birds were injured or killed after crashing into a Walmart parking lot in Cedar City, Utah on Monday night. Authorities believe the birds thought the parking lot was water.
According to the Washington Post, Lynn Chamberlain, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, believes the crash landing of the small Eared Grebe birds to be a "bad combination of lighting, snowfall and a low cloud cover, creating an optical illusion that tricked the birds into falling."
These birds were likely en route to fly south to the Gulf of Mexico as a part of their routine travel and experts think the birds stopped to take a rest. This type of bird requires water for 'take-off' because they cannot lift to fly off solid land.
Fox News reported that officials also said stormy conditions probably confused the duck-like birds.
Reportedly this is not the first time a mistaken landing has happened with this type of bird, however it is the incident with the largest number of birds affected; experts estimate about 1,500 birds died.
While many birds were killed, Chamberlain said between 3,000 and 3,500 birds were saved by the efforts of town residents and animal rescue teams. Healthy birds were released into a nearby pond; on Wednesday the birds were still floating about.
Chamberlain said, “We had people all day long bringing us birds they had located. Without the help of the community, we never would have been able to rescue as many as we did.”
The Fox report said Chamberlain explained humans can't do much to facilitate the healing process of those birds which sustained broken wings and other injuries from the impact, but placing the birds in water where food is available improves their chance of survival.
"We're giving them the best shot they can," Chamberlain said. "The likelihood is that most of them will survive."
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eared grebes breed in shallow wetlands located in western North America and then fly to the southwestern U.S. and Mexico during the colder months. Listed under "cool facts", the lab also says "the Eared Grebe migrates only at night."
Rescue efforts for any potential remaining birds in the Cedar City vicinity are continuing. The Spectrum reported that anyone who finds any of the grebes in the area should call Division of Wildlife Resources Cedar City office at 435-865-6100 or bring the birds to 1470 N. Airport Road in Cedar City.
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