In a scene that looks like it was part of a movie, people reported seeing over 60 long-billed corellas, a protected species, dropping from the sky in South Australia. Animal rescuers say the birds were shrieking in pain and had blood coming out of their beaks. Rescuers believe the corellas had been poisoned.

Sarah King, founder of Casper’s Bird Rescue told The Guardian that the birds were screaming in pain with blood flowing from their eyes and beaks. King pointed out poisoning as a likely cause as the short-billed species of Corella (similar to a cockatoo) is known to be a pest in Australia. These birds are notorious for damaging power lines and killing crops. She said she did not believe any of the birds survived.

“I got a phone call from that carer quite distressed saying they are literally everywhere falling out of the trees, falling out of the sky,” King told ABC Adelaide. “It was obvious then that it was a bit more of a situation than we thought,” she said.

“Of the 60-odd that we found, only three were the non-protected species,” she added.

Birds sleep mid-flight
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany found that some birds can sleep mid-flight. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A vet, Trudy Seidel, suspected the birds had been poisoned. “The crops on a couple of birds that we did open up after they passed away showed that they were full of grain but we don’t have any toxicology to know that’s for sure,” Seidel explained. “We have also contacted Biosecurity South Australia so that they are being tested for any sort of exotic diseases to make sure that its not that, but more than likely they have been poisoned,” she said.

Seidel also said the vets were unsure about the blood on the birds’ beaks as it could have either been due to the poison or falling to the ground.