Huge flocks of young birds have perished as temperatures soared over 50 degrees in the Western Australian outback, a roadhouse manager says.
Tony Aroldi, at the remote Overlander Roadhouse about 200km south of Carnarvon, in the state's midwest, says the birds began dying during a fierce heatwave last week.
He said dead birds, mainly budgerigars, were everywhere.
And the smell was terrible.
"They are just flying and then the next minute you see they're trying to find a shady place," he said.
"And then what they do is they get right around the corner and they stay there (in the shade), they never come out to eat, they never come out to drink and they're dying.
"They are dying because of the heat.
"We don't worry about the heat but these birds are dead after flying about for about three days, round and round and round - they look for somewhere to stay, they look for the water."
Temperatures at the remote roadhouse hit 52 degrees last week, Mr Aroldi said.
This week it was milder - he reckoned the temperature on Tuesday was about 44 degrees.
Mr Aroldi has contacted the Department of Environment and Conservation seeking help with the cleanup.
Hundreds of fallen birds were underneath his house.
And he said he pulled at least 20 kilograms of dead birds out of a generator outside the roadhouse after they had died there seeking shelter, he said.
He estimated the death toll in the millions.
"We're talking about in the millions not in the hundreds, trust me in the millions," he said.
"I've never seen such a thing like that, you know.
"You can't go near it with the smell."
A neighbour of Mr Aroldi's had told him birds had fallen into a well and had contaminated the water.
Mr Aroldi said water was an issue at the isolated roadhouse and he had to close down toilets and showers after tourists had emptied the water tanks turning on a tap to try to save the birds.
Department of Environment and Conservation district manager Brett Fitzgerald said he had never seen bird deaths in his ten years in the region.
He said it was difficult to estimate how many birds had died, but it was at least 1,000, not millions.
An ideal breeding season had seen bird numbers flourish in the WA wheatbelt, he said.
Budgies are prolific breeders who can nest multiple times during a good season and most of the birds were experiencing their first summer.
"Unfortunately it's the bust that comes at the end of a boom," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"These birds are young birds, juvenile birds and it's their first year, their first real hot summer, they are certainly mobile, they've got to Overlander which is not a budgie breeding area but probably not experienced enough to move to a better area when the heatwave hit last week.
"There are other water sources within the immediate vicinity and mature birds have most likely migrated to areas more suitable."