Footage of dead birds on a frozen lake is from South Dakota, not China

23 February 2024
What was claimed

A video shows hundreds of dead birds that froze to death in Xinjiang, China, as temperatures dropped to -52°C.

Our verdict

The footage actually shows a frozen lake in South Dakota, US. It’s possible the birds died from avian influenza.

Multiple posts on social media falsely claim a video shows hundreds of birds that were supposedly killed by severe temperatures of -52°C in Xinjiang, China. 

In fact, the footage comes from South Dakota in the US. 

The video seemingly shows hundreds of dead birds frozen to the surface of an expanse of water. 

It has been shared on both X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook with the caption: “Today, temperatures in Xinjiang, China dropped 45° [sic] almost instantly to a low of -52℃ (-61.6℉), kiIIing hundreds of waterfowl. Will they blame this on global warming?” 

While temperatures in Xinjiang, in the north west of China, were reported to have reached -52°C in recent days, the video does not show scenes from this region. 

The video was first shared by an Instagram account that said the footage was recorded in South Dakota, US, and identifies the birds as snow geese which they do appear to be

The caption says: “EDIT: these birds are from a die off two months ago. The video was recorded two days ago and was the worst die off I had seen. These being juveniles in the video and being froze [sic] into the ice in South Dakota signifies this is NOT fresh.”

The account added: “I don’t know what to even say. Avian influenza? Cold snap? Both?”

While it is not clear exactly what caused the birds to die, the Instagram user told reporters at Outdoor Life that he’d “recorded several lakes in early December with huge die-offs like this”. 

Several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza were detected in snow geese in South Dakota in late 2023, as well as in 2022

The person who took the footage also suggested the scene might typically have been covered in snow until Spring.  

Full Fact has contacted the Instagram account that posted the video for comment and will update the article if we receive a response. 

Miscaptioned images and videos are a common form of misinformation that can spread quickly online. We’ve previously written about many images and videos with misleading captions claiming to show scenes from different places and times, or where individuals have been misidentified

You can read more about identifying misleading images and videos using our guides.

Image courtesy of USFWS Mountain-Prairie

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