December 22, 2013 at 11:44 pm #1822MikeKeymaster
Grisly mystery after scores of starlings fall out of the sky and lie dying… in a SINGLE front garden
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:17 PM on 10th March 2010
It was like a grisly scene from a horror film.
On Sunday night, over a quiet Somerset house, scores of swooping starlings tumbled out of the sky and fell, dead, into a single front garden.
Covering an area 12ft across, more than 100 birds carpeted the garden, each with blood oozing from its beak and curled up claws.
Most had died, although some flapped lamely, clearly in pain until the RSPCA put them out of their misery.
An RSPCA animal welfare officer was called in by Julie Knight to collect the dozens of dead birds from her garden in Coxley, Somerset.
Householder Julie Knight, 53, returned to her home in the quiet village of Coxley at 4.15pm to find the macabre scene, which has mystified experts.
An RSPCA expert said the cause of the deaths was ‘a mystery’, adding that the only plausible explanation was that the flock were being chased by a bird of prey and hit the ground as they changed direction
Nurse Julie Knight said discovering the birds was like something from a horror film. ‘The sky was raining starlings. One of my neighbours saw them. They seemed to just fall out of the sky. About 70 were dead straight away.
‘The only way to describe what they looked like is that they seemed to have had a fright and were petrified. ‘We called out the RSPCA and their animal welfare officer took a few away in cages and euthanised the rest.
‘There must have been over 100 birds in total. I’ve been a country girl all my life and I’ve never seen anything like it.’
Some of the bodies fell into the boughs of a tree, where a number of distressed surviving birds perched. Just six survived.
The uncanny scene in Mrs Knight’s garden mirrored that of an episode of cult Channel 5 hit Flash forward, in which a flock of crows falls out of the sky in Somalia.
Similar incidents of flocks of birds plummeting to earth have been reported all over the world, with pesticides and collisions sometimes being blamed.
Mrs Knight added: ‘I’m worried about what could have killed them because I have a young grandson and two cats that are often in my garden.
‘My only thoughts are that the birds, who are greedy in nature, had been eating crops sprayed with weedkiller and were poisoned – but it’s all very weird.’
Lloyd Scott, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: ‘This is one of the oddest things I’ve ever heard about. ‘We’ve certainly never come across anything similar.’
An RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer poses with a number of the dead birds – but even the animal experts are unsure why they died He said it was unlikely that the birds had flown into each other in confusion.
‘Starlings have natural habits and behaviour, when flying around in a murmuration they relate each movement to the seven birds closest to them.
‘They are hardwired into doing this and on instinct they stay away from each other.’
He speculated that the birds may have flown into a glass conservatory while taking part in their sky dance, but Mrs Knight insisted they had simply fallen out of the sky.
Post mortems on the starlings carried out today proved inconclusive.
They were all found to have physical injuries – with most suffering either broken wings or a shattered beak – but no underlying health problems or toxins which could explain their sudden deaths.
RSPCA spokesman Helen Cohen said the cause of the incident was ‘still a mystery’.
She said: ‘We were informed that a lady had reported many dead or dying starlings on her property. This is obviously an extremely unusual occurrence.
‘Tests were carried out on some of the birds and they were found to have physical injuries but we could find no evidence of any health issues which could explain what had happened.
‘We know they did not strike power cables because they would have fallen directly beneath and there are none nearby.
Flocks of hundreds or even thousands of starlings often fly togther, seemingly as one, with each bird closely watching seven others to determine the direction of the ‘murmuration’.
‘The only possible explanation we can think of is that something has caused the flock to suddenly change their direction of flight and caused them to hit the ground.
‘It could have been that a bird of prey could have scared them into doing this, but it is still a mystery really.’
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