More than 150 wild birds die in lightning strike
A large number of birds died in a lightning strike in the Kurdistan Region's Halgurd-Sakran National Park on Friday, officials have confirmed.

"At this time of the year, these [birds] migrate from the hot to cold places. While flying towards the Caspian sea in Iran, a lightning strike hit them," Mohammed Abdulla, an employee at the Halgurd-Sakran National Park, told Rudaw English. "We have so far managed to discover around 150 of them."

"There are many others that we have not yet been able to discover as their bodies have dispersed across the mountain," he added.

Sulaiman Tameer, head of the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection categorized the birds as common cranes, a medium-sized species most commonly found in Europe.

Halgurd Sakran National Park is home to 1,100 square kilometers of protected land in the Zagros Mountain range bordering Iran. It boasts the Iraq's tallest peak, Halgurd Mountain, at an altitude of 3,609 meters, along with a range of wildlife, including lynx, leopards, bears, and wolves.

The incident took place in Chineran in Choman district, about 95 km northeast of Erbil.

According to Abdulla, they come across such birds migrating on a daily basis.

"This is the season of bird migration," Abdulla added.

He added that the deaths have sparked fear among locals that the birds might have died of the coronavirus, which Abdulla says is false.

"It is important to note that their death is not related to the coronavirus at all," he added. "They were killed in a lightning strike."

"Right now, we launched autopsies on the birds. Later, we will bury them," he added. "Based on the autopsies and from what we have seen, there are no wounds on their body, nor have they been poisoned by any kind of food."

Dilzar Qadir, head of the park's administration assured the public that such birds "are not in danger of extinction as they migrate back and forth every year in large numbers."

The death of the wild birds come as wildlife is under threat by poachers and traders in the Kurdistan Region.

Wild animals and their pelts can be bought despite poaching being illegal in the Kurdistan Region.