Birds fall from sky in Seymour

Dozens of starlings litter roadway and fields
Dec. 31, 2012 @ 10:41 AM

Residents and those passing by near Dogwood Hills subdivision on Boyd Creek Highway Sunday afternoon were met with an unusual scene. Dozens of dead birds littered the highway and surrounding fields after falling from the sky.

Sgt. Robert Stoffle of the Sevier County Sheriff's Department said a call about the birds came in around 1:15 p.m. He said a witness reported seeing the birds in flight before turning back around to see them on the ground.

"It covered one lane of traffic," Stoffle said of the bodies of the birds. Estimates of the number of birds varied from between 30 and 60 up to 300. They appeared to be starlings.

While the vast majority of the birds were dead by the time The Mountain Press photographer arrived, several were still alive, convulsing and flopping their wings on the ground.

A count of the birds on the scene stopped at around 50, when not even half of the visible birds were tallied. Perhaps dozens more were scattered in a nearby field, which was flooded from the recent rainfall. As far as 60 yards from the main site of the birds, individual starlings were found.

A local resident, who didn't want to be named, said he was quite shocked to see the large group of dead and dying birds on the road.

"I was (driving) to the house ... and I see a couple of kids standing in the road. I'm like, 'what are these kids doing in the road?'

"When we get closer, next thing you know, there's birds everywhere and they were all dead. It was disgusting. It was really amazing. That end-of-the-world was supposed to have been coming and stuff, so everybody was like, 'oh, no,'" he said, laughing.

"When I first came upon it, when the kids were kicking them out of the road, there had to be 300 birds there, at least. It was crazy. There's some even in the field and the water and stuff, too, it's crazy.

Officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded and took two to three birds from the scene for testing, Stoffle said. A state highway department truck with a snow blade attachment scraped the birds from the highway onto the shoulder.