feathers.jpgCall off the apocalypse.

A report that about 100 birds were found dead in unincorporated Sonoma County near Geyserville this weekend has a simple explanation: they flew into a big-rig, a state Department of Fish and Game spokesman said today.

The dead birds were reported sometime between noon and 3 p.m. Sunday near U.S. Highway 101 and Independence Lane, Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan said.

Similar reports of birds dying en masse have surfaced in recent weeks in Arkansas and Louisiana, events some media outlets dubbed the “Aflockalypse,” but the case in Sonoma County appears to simply be an instance of birds flying too close to a roadway, Hughan said.

“It looks like a large case of roadkill, essentially,” Hughan said. “One witness and the evidence supports that a large flock of these birds were forming in a group, like a school of fish going around the sky, and flew too low and hit a semi truck.”

The birds are black starlings, a non-native, invasive species that is “a pretty harmful pest” to the grape crops in the North Bay, Hughan said. The birds are about 6 inches long and weigh about a pound, he said.

He said there is no indication that the birds were hunted or suffered from some sort of disease, but about a dozen of the animals will be taken back to the department’s lab in Sacramento for inspection.

The driver of the big-rig that apparently struck the birds did not stop, and was not required to because no traffic violation occurred, Hughan said.

“But I’m surprised he didn’t stop because of the amount of bird goo all over the front of his truck,” he said.

The death of up to 5,000 birds in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve has been attributed to loud noises from fireworks that frightened the birds and forced them to fly at a lower altitude than normal, hitting houses, trees and other objects, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Impact from trauma is also suspected in the deaths of about 500 birds in Louisiana on Jan. 3, the USGS concluded.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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