The cold, wet, and fatal spring of 1996

The weather during May of 1996, in particular the frequent heavy rains, created a "perfect storm" of conditions that led to extremely high mortality among migrating birds. Untold thousands of birds were caught in the storms as they migrated over Lake Michigan. Onshore winds that followed these events washed many of the carcasses onto shore, where Field Museum scientists combed local beaches over 12 days between 11 May and 1 June in order to document this event. Rob Diehl, who at that time was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, began looking into radar images to investigate if he could "see" the convergence of migrating birds and the storms that knocked them into the lake. The results have been published in the March 2014 edition of the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. The abstract can be found here, but the appendix is copied below,  listing the incredible number and diversity of birds (2,981 birds of 114 species!) that washed up on Chicago's beaches. Some numbers are particularly striking, like 25 Sedge Wrens. There are also many locally rare birds in the list. And there are some puzzlingly low numbers for some birds as well: why was only one Blackpoll Warbler found?

Reference: Robert H. Diehl, John M. Bates, David E. Willard, and Thomas P. Gnoske (2014). Bird mortality during nocturnal migration over Lake Michigan: a case study. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126: 19-29.

APPENDIX.    Birds collected (species, numbers) on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan in Spring 1996.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)    497
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)    446
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)    214
Empidonax (Empidonax spp.)    184
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)    143
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)    127
Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)    124
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)    102
Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)    79
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)    70
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)    64
Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)    60
Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)    51
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)    49
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)    38
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)    37
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)    33
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)    31
Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)    30
Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia)    27
Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)    25
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)    25
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)    25
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)    22
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)    21
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)    21
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)    20
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)    20
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)    18
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)    17
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)    17
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)    16
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)    15
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)    15
Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)    15
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)    14
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)    12
Veery (Catharus fuscescens)    11
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)    10
Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina)    10
Sora (Porzana carolina)    9
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)    9
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)    8
Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)    8
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)    8
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)    7
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)    7
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)    7
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)    7
Thrush (Catharus spp.)    6
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)    6
Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina)    6
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)    6
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)    6
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)    6
Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)    5
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)    5
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)    5
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)    5
Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)    5
Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera)    5
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)    4
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)    3
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)    3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)    3
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)    3
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)    3
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)    3
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)    3
Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea)    3
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)    3
Le Conte’s Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)    3
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)    3
Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)    2
Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)    2
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)    2
Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)    2
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)    2
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)    2
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)    2
Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa)    2
Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)    2
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)    2
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)    2
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)    2
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)    2
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)    1
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)    1
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)    1
King Rail (Rallus elegans)    1
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)    1
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)    1
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)    1
Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)    1
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)    1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)    1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)    1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)    1
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)    1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)    1
Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus)    1
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)    1
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)    1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)    1
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)    1
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)    1
Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)    1
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)    1
Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)    1
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)    1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)    1
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)    1
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)    1