The swallows are dying: 'This type of mortality event is unprecedented'

SALEM, Ore. - The stormy weather we had recently didn't just knock down some trees and power lines, it also took a toll on one of the state's bird populations.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has received a number of calls about dead and dying Barn and Violet-green Swallows, with reports coming in from the Port of Saint Helens to as far south as Junction City.

It's estimated that thousands of the birds have died this past week. Groups of 10 to 200 have been reported dead in barns and other structures and, according to ODFW, the deaths appear to be in greater numbers near rivers and standing water.

"This type of mortality event is unprecedented and considered a rare and unusual event," said Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian. "The effect on bird populations is unknown."

What happened to the birds? Experts are blaming the recent heavy rains and high winds, which they believe prevented the swallows from getting food. When the birds were examined by a lab at Oregon State University, the swallows were thin and it was obvious they had not eaten recently.

Swallows feed on insects and when the weather gets bad, it has an effect on the young and weaker birds because they suddenly become unable to take in enough food to meet their energy requirements.

Sick or dead wildlife can be reported to the ODFW Health Lab at (866) 968-2600. Keep in mind that only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may treat sick or injured wildlife.