SIKESTON, Mo. (KFVS) - More than 1,000 dead birds found on the west side of Sikeston are believed to be from the weather.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said resident Gwineth Pearson, who came home to find her grandfather cleaning up the mess.
“My grandpa was like, ‘something happened.' I was like, ‘what?’ And then 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 said.
Animal control officials reached out to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Those officials say it was likely Sunday’s storm that knocked the birds out of the air.
The City of Sikeston posted a statement from Scott County Conservation Agent Andrew Mothershead.
The carcasses of red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and European starlings were found in the fields along Wakefield Road.
Mothershead said they also saw many birds showing signs of physical injury in areas near the road.
While looking around north of Wakefield Road, he said they found more dead and injured birds, with most of them isolated to neighborhoods positioned along the sand ridge.
Mothershead said he estimated there to be more 1,000 dead birds in the area.
Reports of dead and dying birds began between 8 and 9 p.m. on Sunday, around the time a thunderstorm moved through the area.
Mothershead said he confirmed with the National Weather Service in Paducah that the Sikeston area experienced high winds, lightning and some hail from 8 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
He said most of the birds were near roosting habitat and the species identified commonly travel and roost together in large flocks. Based on the condition of the dead birds, the injured birds, location and weather conditions, he and the MDC biologist believe it’s reasonable to conclude that the flock was spooked during the weather event and got caught up in high winds or lightning.
Because birds can’t recover in flight, he said many fell to the ground and died or were injured.
There is no cause for concern with the public’s health. You don’t need to wear a mask or breathing apparatus.
Street crews made a pass through the area on Monday afternoon and cleared up the majority of the birds off the public roads.
The remaining birds spread across the grassy areas will eventually become compost.
Specimens were collected and will be examined by MDC’s Wildlife Health Unit in Columbia, Mo. in the next few days so that a more thorough analysis can be made.
Any citizens that have bird carcasses on their property are encouraged to collect them with gloves, bag them and put them in their trash for local pick-up.
If you have any questions, you can contact Scott County Conservation Agent Andrew Mothershead at 573-380-2578.