Scientists Baffled By Sudden Death Of Hundreds Of Starlings Mid-Flight

The Spanish authorities remain stumped about the sudden death of around 150 starlings that suddenly dropped out of the sky and onto the streets after ruling out electrocution and bird flu as possible causes.

The birds plummeted on cars and local residents outside the Hospital Ribera Juan Cardona in the area of Caranza in the city of Ferrol in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia at around 9am on 26th November.

Despite around 150 starlings suddenly dropping onto the streets at rush hour, no one was reported as injured.

At the time, it was widely reported that the birds were probably electrocuted or died of avian flu, however both causes have now been ruled out by the investigating authorities.

According to the news site 20 Minutos, 127 dead specimens and a few surviving birds were sent to the Oleiros Wild Fauna Recovery Centre in the city of A Coruna for tests.

The report said the birds presented a “decayed state” and an “incapacity to fly” with trauma evident on their wings and legs, making it difficult for them to remain upright.

Due to the condition of the surviving starlings, “they were treated with force feeding and immobilisation of the observed injuries”.

To determine if the birds were poisoned, samples were taken for the “toxicological analysis of brain, heart, lung, trachea, kidney and intestine” tissues which are currently “awaiting results”.

The report said that “several hemorrhagic lesions were observed in the intrathoracic area, larynx, and cranioencephalic region, which seriously affect the heart, respiratory system, and the brain”.

However, experts concluded that the deaths could not have been caused by bird flu because they “cannot be related to a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection”.

The report also points out that “electrocution cannot be determined as a cause of death” as “edema and burn necrosis should appear at the entry and exit points of the electrical current, in addition to small burn marks on nearby feathers”.

As these marks could not be detected, the authorities have also ruled out electrocution as a possible cause.

The result of the toxicological analysis of brain, heart, lung, trachea, kidney, and intestine tissues is still pending.