ST. GEORGE, Utah, Dec. 14 (UPI) — Thousands of migrating birds crashed in a Utah Walmart parking lot Monday requiring a marathon rescue and collection effort, wildlife officials said.
Officials said thousands of grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird, were migrating toward Mexico and probably mistook the parking lot of a Walmart store and other flat areas for bodies of water, The Spectrum newspaper of St. George reported.
Thinking they were landing to rest in a pond or lake, the grebes plummeted to the ground, wildlife workers said.
“The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right,” Teresa Griffin, a wildlife program manager for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resource, said. “So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into the pavement.”
Many of the birds were killed, officials said, but workers began collecting survivors early Tuesday.
“They’re just everywhere,” Griffin said. “It’s been non-stop. All our employees are driving around picking them up and we’ve got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off.”
More than 2,000 birds have been rescued and released into unfrozen bodies of water in Washington County, she said.
“I’ve been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I’ve seen,” Griffin said. “Most of the downings I’ve seen have been pretty localized, but this was very widespread.”