An investigation is underway after thousands of songbirds flew into a flare at the Canaport LNG Terminal in Saint John. Between 5,000 and 10,000 birds were killed.

The company says the flare was burning off excess gas when the birds were killed last weekend.

“Why did birds fly into it? I don’t know. I would have thought they would have sensed the heat and not advanced that much,” says Fraser Forsythe of Canaport LNG.

Among collections at the New Brunswick Museum are examples of the same species of songbirds killed by the flare.

Don McAlpine, director of zoology at the museum, is not surprised by the incident.

He blames a combination of heavy fog, low cloud cover, and birds being attracted to light, all during migration season.

“I think that under these circumstances, it was entirely predictable that there would be a bird kill at a large flare which attracted birds moving down the coast during migration,” says Alpine.

Most of the dead birds were either burned or singed. Canaport employees collected thousands of them around the terminal property. Some have been turned over to the Atlantic Veterinary College on Prince Edward Island for examination.

Bette Shannon lives next to the terminal. She says the extent of flaring has taken neighbours by surprise.

“It’s not what it was supposed to be,” says Shannon. “It’s not as I was informed it would be. It would be a temporary thing, when necessary things needed to be burned off, but this is becoming more prominent, much, much bigger in the sky.”

A new gas recovery system is under construction at the terminal, which will reduce flaring.

“Really, now we’re stressing with our folks, this project is on schedule, but we’ve got to get it, we’ve got to get it online,” says Forsythe.

Canaport LNG says the new system is expected to go into operation in a few weeks.

Environment Canada would not say whether the company could face charges in connection with the bird kill.