In a bizarre scene straight out of a horror movie, hundreds of birds flew into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Tuesday night in Charlotte and crashed to the sidewalk, Carolina Waterfowl Rescue said.
The nonprofit said it received a call about 11 p.m. from someone reporting birds by the dozens were dying as they dived straight at the building’s windows.
It counted 310 chimney swifts, a third of which were dead when rescuers arrived, the agency said.
A video posted on Facebook by witness Holl Belle shows the birds striking windows and doors near the main entrance. She says in the video that this went on for more than an hour.
“Don’t let them hit you. There’s something wrong with them,” someone says in the video. “It’s a whole flock. That’s odd.”
The scene got stranger still, she wrote, when some birds got up and tried “killing themselves again ... running into different buildings.”
The museum closes at 5 p.m., so only staff were on site at the time. The adjacent office tower houses the Charlotte Observer, NASCAR offices and Duke Energy employees, among others.
Belle, who says she works in the building, reported that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police picked up the birds, after telling employees to go back in the building.
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue is seeking donations to treat the injured birds. It says 100 of the birds were “severely injured with broken wings, legs or other fractures.”
“The other third appears stunned and will hopefully be released in a few days,” the group said on Facebook.
State biologists say birds are most likely to fly into buildings in the fall when they begin migrating.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says about 1 billion birds in the United States die each year after flying into windows. “Some of these nighttime collisions are due to chance, but much more often the nocturnal migrants are lured to their deaths by the lights,” the lab reports.
Audubon North Carolina issued a statement to the McClatchy news group reporting it is “working with the NASCAR Hall of Fame to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s unusual for Chimney Swifts to collide with windows. Audubon volunteers have documented this a few times in North Carolina cities, but only one bird at a time – not a large-scale event like this one,” said a statement issued by Kim Brand, senior network manager at Audubon North Carolina.
“It’s also odd that these swifts were out last night after 9 p.m. Normally, even during migration, Chimney Swifts go to roost in a chimney for the night around dusk. Yesterday, the sun set around 7 p.m.”
Audubon North Carolina officials suspect a series of factors caused the incident, including the possibility the birds could not find a suitable place to roost, the release said.
The lights in the museum and reflective glass front may also have attracted and disoriented the birds, Brand said in the release.
“We recommend that the NASCAR Hall of Fame turn out all lights this evening and through mid-November to protect swifts and other birds migrating south for the winter,” Brand said in the release.