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