CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - A flock of tens of thousands of Eared Grebes mistook the Utah town of Cedar City for a lake late Monday night and crash landed during a winter snow storm killing hundreds of the migrating birds.
Residents said the sky rained birds in Iron County about 11:30 p.m. Monday as the water-based Eared Grebes slammed into streets and parking lots all over town. “They get down through the clouds and see a lawn that is covered with snow or a parking lot that is covered with snow with lights on it thinking it's a lake and try to land on it,” said DWR spokesman Lynn Chamberlain.
Apparently, the birds can not survive the cold or on frozen water and came down en masse to find shelter from the storm that hit Cedar City.
"They hit the pavement and many of them are injured or killed and the rest are stranded because they can’t take off from the ground. They have to have a large expanse of water in order to get airborne again,” Chamberlain said.
About 1,500 died on impact. The Division of Wild Life Resources workers and city residents scrambled to rescue the injured birds, taking them about 20 miles south to the warmer waters of Grandpa's Pond in Washington County, where they can recover, eat insects and continue their southern migration. "Or if they are injured to the point that they can not fly they can actually survive on the pond there for an indefinite period of time," said Chamberlain.
Chamberlain said these types of bird crashes happen frequently but he has never seen anything like this before.
Wildlife officials said the Cedar City residents did an amazing job to help collect the injured birds and take them to safety and estimate they helped rescued nearly 3,500 Eared Grebes that otherwise would have died.