Witness says toxic fumes not involved in death of dozens of birds

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - On Wednesday morning, a viewer alerted WHNT News 19 about a scene that looked like it was straight out of a movie. More than 60 dead European Starlings were scattered across a small portion of Moores Mill Road in Huntsville. It appeared that they all died at the same time.

An aviary expert at Auburn University said he suspected the birds could have been exposed to poisonous fumes. Many people took to social media expressing concerns about where the fumes could have come from.

WHNT News 19 found a driver who actually witnessed what happened to the birds. We learned that the birds actually died on Monday but more importantly, the witness says there is nothing for the public to worry about.

"Birds just scattered everywhere. It was like a bomb exploded," said Shiela Price, a woman from Meridianville who witnessed what happened Monday afternoon as she left the grocery store.

"We had left Kroger and was headed toward 72 on Moores Mill Road," she explained.

That's when Price says several flocks of birds caught her attention because they were flying in a strange pattern near the road. A few seconds later one large flock dove straight into a white Chevy pick up.

"One swarm of the birds just looked like it attacked that truck. They just swooped down real quick and hit the truck," she said.

She says she thought it was important to contact WHNT News 19 and tell her story.

"Because I was reading on your post and a lot of people were worried that are residents there, that some kind of gas or toxic fumes, or something you know, going to endanger them. And so I wanted to come forth and let everyone know what really happened," she explained.

But what really happened? Why would so many birds dive bomb a car? WHNT News 19 asked Auburn's curator of birds, Dr. Geoff Hill.

"It was probably a life and death chase where they were eminently going to be caught and eaten," he said.

He says when birds are in danger they fly in tight formations to try and protect themselves.

"They fly really low and really fast, and that's when they can make mistakes and hit windows, or a truck because it's really life and death," he said.

Dr. Hill says new research suggests when birds fly in formation the ones in front navigate for the entire flock, which could explain why they all 60 of them hit the truck.

He says it is extremely rare for an entire flock of birds to run into something. He also doesn't believe any toxic fumes or poisonous chemicals were involved in the birds' strange behavior.

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