Instead of pollution or 5G, it was most likely another bird that caused deaths caught on camera in Cuauhtémoc
Hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds have been filmed appearing to fall from the sky, some of them dying, in mysterious circumstances in the northern Mexican city of Cuauhtémoc.
The cause of death remains unclear but experts said it was most likely the flock was “flushed” from above by a predatory bird swooping down to make a catch.
The footage from a security camera shows a flock of migratory birds descending on to houses like a cloud of black smoke. Most birds manage to fly off but subsequent footage shows carcasses of the distinctive black and yellow birds scattered on streets of the city.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Security footage shows a flock of yellow-headed blackbirds drop dead in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua pic.twitter.com/mR4Zhh979K
The incident happened on the morning on 7 February, according to local reports. The birds tend to breed farther north, in the US and Canada, and migrate south for winter in Mexico.
According to the local paper El Heraldo de Chihuahua, which first reported the story, a veterinarian suggested blame for the incident could lie with high levels of pollution, driven by the use of wood-burning heaters, agrochemicals, and cold weather in the area. Another suggestion was that the birds were electrocuted while resting on power lines. There was speculation on social media that it could have been caused by 5G technology.
But Dr Richard Broughton, an ecologist with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said that although he could not see a raptor in the footage, he was 99% sure it was caused by a predatory bird. A predator could have made the birds swirl tightly and driven them towards the ground, with higher birds forcing lower ones to crash into the buildings or the ground.
“This looks like a raptor like a peregrine or hawk has been chasing a flock, like they do with murmurating starlings, and they have crashed as the flock was forced low,” he said. “You can see that they act like a wave at the beginning, as if they are being flushed from above.”
Dr Alexander Lees, a senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University, agreed. “For my part and from one video and no toxicology, I’d still say the most probable cause is the flock murmurating to avoid a predatory raptor and hitting the ground,” he said.
“There always seems to be a kneejerk response to blame environmental pollutants, but collisions with infrastructure are very common. In a tightly packed flock, the birds are following the movements of the bird in front rather than actually interpreting their wider surroundings, so it isn’t unexpected that such events happen occasionally.”
The deaths of 225 starlings in Anglesey in December 2019 were later discovered to have been caused by them diving into the tarmac, possibly after being chased by a predatory bird and failing to pull up in time.