Spain is home to millions of spotless as well as common starlings from central and northern Europe in the fall. When the birds gather there, they tend to flock in mixed murmurations, likely for safety.
Spain is notably familiar to “estorninos”, the Spanish word for the mass death of starlings.
On Sunday, February 18th 2020, hundreds of starlings were discovered dead along the C-31b highway between Tarragona and Salou, Northeastern Spain. Catalonia police have been investigating the incident.
Drivers running this road reported to the emergency services after noticing the bird skeletons cluttering the tar.
In an attempt to unveil the mystery, some of the dead birds were sent to the laboratory for analysis although local environment groups advocated suffocation from toxins, resulting from the huge petrochemical plants surrounding the area of incidence.
Recently, December 11th, 2019, a similar incident occurred in Anglesey, where a huge number of starlings were found dead on the road. Investigations, however, attributed the incidence to trauma from impact with the ground while escaping predators.
Starlings always flock together in their hundreds sometimes thousands, a phenomenon termed murmuration. Murmuration of starlings is an amazing sight- best seen early evenings just before dusk across the UK.
A murmuration can once in a while be targetted by a bird of prey, like a peregrine falcon. When this happens, it can send the murmuration into evasive action which may disorient the birds and cause fatalities if they fail to pull up in time to avoid impact with the ground as was the case with the Anglesey incident.
But for the Tarragona incident, CCTV footage has revealed that the multiple deaths resulted from a collision with a vehicle as the bird flew too close to the road.