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Bird deaths reported across New Mexico

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Reports of large numbers of dead birds have been made across the state, including Roswell, but wildlife officials say it is too early to determine the cause or even the total number of birds affected.

Tristanna Bickford, spokesperson for the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, told the Roswell Daily Record the agency did not have specific numbers of bird deaths reported in or around Roswell.

“We’ve had reports from nearly every corner of the state, from Alamogordo and Roswell, Santa Fe, Socorro, Estancia up to Farmington,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Megan Telles, interim animal services supervisor for the city of Roswell, said the department has not had an increase in reports of bird deaths within the city.

Martha Desmond, a professor of fish, wildlife and conservation ecology at New Mexico State University-Las Cruces, told the Las Cruces Sun-News there could be multiple causes for the bird die-offs, from drought to wildfires.

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Biologists from the university and White Sands Missile Range examined about 300 carcasses gathered in the region last week, but further observations could place casualties in the hundreds of thousands, “if not millions,” Desmond said.

Bickford said it was too early to tell the cause of death for the birds or even speculate on total numbers until further analysis can be done. State biologists have been collecting samples and they were to be mailed Wednesday to the National Wildlife Health Center, a laboratory operated under the U.S. Geological Survey in Madison, Wisconsin.

Depending on the tests the lab needs to run, results could take from two weeks to several months, Bickford said.

The Game and Fish Department first began receiving reports of the die-offs on Sept. 8.

“It was pretty busy for a while. We are still getting reports but it does seem to be slowing down a little bit,” Bickford said.

The majority of the dead birds have been migratory songbirds, she said.

“There’s a few resident birds that have been affected, but by and large they have been migratory songbirds, so warblers and swallows have been among the highest we’ve received reports on, but we’ve also gotten some on bluebirds and finches,” Bickford said.

Bickford said neighboring states are not reporting a similar die-off of birds.

Bickford said anyone finding a dead or lethargic bird should not handle it with their bare hands. Dead birds can be reported to Erin Duvuvuei, nongame avian biologist at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, at Erin.duvuvuei@state.nm.us.

Anyone finding dead birds can also report them using the iNaturalist website, www.inaturalist.org, or mobile app. A project called the Southwest Avian Mortality Project has been set up through the website and app by NMSU-Las Cruces graduate student and researcher Allison Salas, according to an Associated Press report.

“Anybody that comes in contact with a dead bird can take a picture or just write a description and upload it to the app.” Salas said. “As the project manager, I can see all of those submissions. … It just helps us monitor the full extent of this mass mortality.”

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.