Earlier this week, in the clear skies over Winnipeg, Canada, an ominous-seeming scene unfolded as dozens of birds abruptly began to rain from the sky -- casualties of an undetermined cause.
According to CBC News, more than 50 dead birds, identified as common grackles, were discovered scattered throughout Winnipeg's North End on Wednesday. Although clues are scarce as to why, shortly before dead birds began raining from the sky, residents in the area reported witnessing unusual behavior from a large flock lingering in trees and on rooftops around town.
"There was probably, I would say … almost up to the thousand birds in the trees, and then I was looking up and then one fell right in front of me," said Tanya Lee Viner.
By around 10:30 am, what began as just a few birds falling from the sky turned into a downpour that blanketed the streets. Local merchant Susan Tiganagis described to CBC a sight that must have been quite unsettling -- and perhaps even a bit apocalyptic:
"My husband said, like, 'This is a Hitchcock movie.' It's crazy! They were just dizzy. They didn't know where they were going. I've never seen them act like that. They were literally falling out of the trees and they were still dying," says Tiganagis.
"You couldn't step anywhere without stepping on a bird."
Conservation officers arrived to collect the dead birds, along with about a dozen which were still alive but unable to stand or fly. Samples from the deceased birds have been sent for toxicology testing in hopes of pinning down a cause for the sudden die-off, but authorities are speculating that exposure to toxins may be to blame.
The mysterious bird casualties, while apparently isolated to this one area of Winnipeg, are reminiscent of other mass avian die-offs. In 2011, thousands of birds reportedly fell dead from the sky in several cities across the globe. While the exact causes of each were varied, direct and indirect human activity was deemed to blame for a significant number of those deaths.