Posted at 03:53 PM ET, 12/14/2011

Utah birds die after mistaking Wal-Mart parking lot for water

Thousands of birds died or injured themselves Monday night after slamming into a parking lot at Wal-Mart in Cedar City, Utah. The birds, small Eared Grebes, were migrating south to the Gulf of Mexico and officials believe they mistook the wide expanse of asphalt for a body of water.
A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employee frees some surviving grebes. (Lynn Chamberlain/AP)

Lynn Chamberlain of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said in a phone interview that in all his 25 years of work, he had never seen so many birds come down in such a short time period.

It’s been almost a full year since there was any flutter of interest in the impending Aflockalypse. Could the Wal-Mart crash landing be a year-end revival?

Not likely. Chamberlain blamed the crash on a bad combination of lighting, snowfall and a low cloud cover, creating an optical illusion that tricked the birds into falling. Chamberlain said its happened before with the grebes — in fact its happened three times during Chamberlain’s tenure. This was just, by far the most birds. He said he thinks its because the grebes have to land in water as its physically impossible for them to take off from solid land.

Though a number of the birds died, residents of the town worked with animal rescue teams to provide aid to the injured birds. Chamberlain estimates they saved about 3-3,500 birds. “It was wonderful,” 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.” Those deemed healthy enough were released back into the wild — into an actual watering hole.

Chamberlain checked on the birds Wednesday morning and said most were still on the lake. He expects they’ll regroup and return to the migration soon, but for the moment, “I think they’re taking a little time out.”

Birds that survived a crash landing at a Wal-Mart parking lot were released into lakes on Tuesday. (Lynn Chamberlain/AP)

This is not the first time birds have congregated in Wal-Mart parking lots. Greg McIver recorded this video in a Texas Wal-Mart parking lot with his son noting in his YouTube description that it was like a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

By  |  03:53 PM ET, 12/14/2011

Tags:  National, Utah, Aflockalypse

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