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Confused Birds Crash Land in Utah by the Thousands December 16, 2011
Returning grebes to the wild in Utah
Utah officer using a somewhat inelegant method to return the downed grebes into the wild.
Thousands of migrating waterfowl crash-landed onto parking lots and other hard surfaces in southern Utah, prompting a huge volunteer effort to save their lives and collect the dead.

The birds were grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird that typically migrates from Alaska and Canada to the coasts of California and northwest Mexico at this time of year.

When they came across low overcast skies and city lights around St. George, Utah, they confused a Wal-Mart parking lot and other surfaces for water, injuring or killing themselves on impact.

“I’ve been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I’ve seen,” Teresa Griffin, of the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, told The Spectrum newspaper.

While thousands of the birds were killed, officials and volunteers quickly collected more than 2,000 survivors, returning the healthiest ones to a nearby lake.

Photo: Lynn Chamberlain