In a horrific incident witnesses described as a scene “like something out of a horror movie,” around 60 birds died in Australia earlier this month after falling from the sky shrieking in pain and bleeding from their eyes and beaks.
The birds, which belong to a protected native species—the long-billed corella—are thought to have been poisoned, leading to their mass death near a school at One Tree Hill in Adelaide, in the south of the country.
Many of the cockatoos were already dead when rescuers were called onto the scene to tend to the birds. While some of the corella were alive, those too were bleeding from their eyes and beaks.
Sarah King, the founder of Casper’s Bird Rescue, told the Guardian that one of her staff discovered the birds before calling her in a state of distress to tell her that there were far more of the suffering creatures than he could handle.
“They were literally falling out of the trees in front of him, falling out of the sky.
Only two or three were actually deceased. The rest were just screaming on the ground. They couldn’t fly any more, they were bleeding out of their mouths … What we were seeing was something out of a horror movie.
Only two out of the 60 were able to be taken to veterinarians.”
King believes that the manner in which the long-billed corella died was consistent with poisoning, resulting in a grueling death that may have inflicted pain on the birds for days to weeks, in some cases.
“It’s not an instant death. It causes suffering. It takes a few weeks for it to work. It starts internally and they have internal bleeding. It is a horrific, slow death.
[And] the birds that have been affected are the protected species of the long-bill corella. It is an important fact to get out there. Of the 60-odd that we found, only three were the non-protected species.
Veterinarian Trudy Seidel, who also inspected the birds, told the Australian Broadcast Corporation that poisoning was “more than likely.”
Another species of the bird, the little corella, is considered a pest in the region due to the damage it can inflict on crops and street lights, and local authorities list the bird as unprotected.
Last year, the little corella menaced northern Adelaide by the thousands, stripping trees, causing a ruckus and leaving the area coated in droppings.
In March, a local council proposed culling the creatures by gassing, while others have suggested novel methods of herding them away such as deploying drones or falcons to scare them off.
The deceased long-billed corellas are undergoing disease and toxin testing, which will last several weeks before the cause for poisoning is found.
Those found guilty of harming the protected species may face fines or even jail time for the crime.