Experts explain lake bird deaths

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - First, it was Arkansas, then Louisiana, now hundreds of dead birds were spotted on an east Texas highway. The birds were found this morning on the highway 155 bridge at Lake O' the Pines. It was an unsettling sight for several morning drivers along the 155 bridge, over a hundred clumps of gray feathers lining the roadway. Dead coots.

"People see some birds on the bird maybe more than usual people get a little bit nervous and say wow maybe we've got something going on here," says Texas parks and wildlife biologist Charlie Muller.

The species is known as the American coot, or mud-hen. Audubon society member David Brotherton has studied them in Lake O' the Pines for years.

"This year we counted over 9-thousand of them on Lake O' the Pines they are a very common bird on the lake'" he says.

But why did they all die seemingly at once? Its a strange, but explainable occurrence. Game wardens say the coots stay together in large numbers and they were seen by the hundreds on the 155 bridge just a few days ago , the easy answer by the game wardens office, they were run over. The birds are easily startled, and fly low, over the bridge.

"The birds could have been spooked by a boat coming through that area, a bird of prey such as a bald eagle," Muller says.

It probably didn't happen all at once, but over several meetings between the birds and traffic.

"Some are going under some are going above, and the ones that go above are going to get struck," says Brotherton.

And its not expected to be a one time occurrence.

"It happens every year again generally not that many birds, a common occurrence nothing out of the ordinary," says Muller.

Related stories:

Copyright 2011 KLTV. All rights reserved.