mass bird death australia
Thousands of wattle birds like this one have mysteriously dropped dead in Australia
Wildlife officers baffled, autopsies shed no light on mystery

Thousands of birds inexplicably dropped like rocks from the sky over Australia.

The mysterious catastrophe has taken place over a period of three weeks in Esperance, about 450 miles southeast of Perth. The area was declared a disaster zone by government officials.

So far, authorities are clueless as to the cause. Autopsies on the birds have shed no light.

The main casualties, according to Australian news sources, are wattle birds, yellow-throated miners, new holland honeyeaters and singing honeyeaters. Some dead crows, hawks and pigeons have also been found.

Some birds were seen convulsing when they died.

Wildlife officers are baffled by what they characterize as a "catastrophic" event. It does not appear to be weather-related.

District nature conservation coordinator Mike Fitzgerald said: "It's very substantial. We estimate several thousand birds are dead, although we don't have a clear number because of the large areas of bushland."

Birds Australia, the nation's main bird conservation group, said it had not heard of a similar occurrence. "Not on that scale, and all at the same time, and also the fact that it's several different species," chief executive Graeme Hamilton said. "You'd have to call that a most unusual event and one that we'd all have to be concerned about."

Just yesterday, some 60 birds fell out of the sky in Austin, Texas, without explanation.

The incident prompted street closings for several hours.

Officials said they had tested the air for dangerous substances but found nothing, and they declared the area safe.

The dead birds - grackles, sparrows and pigeons - were being checked for avian flu, but officials said they saw no symptoms of the illness and believed it more likely they had been poisoned, possibly deliberately, or affected by near-freezing weather.