Two sets of dead birds were found Monday within a half-mile stretch on Louisiana Highway 1 in Pointe Coupee Parish between the towns of New Roads and Morganza. Fifty birds were found in one area, and 400 more were found in a second area.
The birds were found 350 miles from Beebe, AR, where as many as 5,000 birds died mysteriously.
Necropsies performed by Louisiana State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Jim LaCour revealed that many of the Louisiana birds – which included blackbirds, starlings, brown-headed cowbirds and grackles – died from traumatic injuries.
On Monday, researchers announced that the Arkansas birds died of massive physical trauma.
LaCour said one of the groups of dead birds in Louisiana might have flown into power lines in the darkness since downed lines were found on the scene.
“A lot of the bird carcasses were located immediately next to the power lines,” he said. “The most likely thing is that they ran into the power lines.”
Ten Louisiana bird carcasses were divided and sent Monday to the University of Georgia’s Southeast Cooperative Disease Study and the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI – the latter of which is also involved in testing the Arkansas birds.
On Tuesday, an additional 12 were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, IA.
Seymour said until lab tests are completed, viruses, bacteria and other toxins – including pesticides – cannot be ruled out.
While the numbers of dead birds may seem large, he said, these types of incidents are not unusual. The species flocks together in large groups that can number in the millions. While blackbirds dying in plain view of humans might be unusual, the death of 5,000 birds is not.
Blackbirds are large and have poor eyesight, Seymour said. And they are slow and fly low – all factors that work against them if their roosting habitat is disturbed, he said.
LaCour said when it’s all said and done, the incidents in Louisiana and Arkansas are unlikely to be linked. But while he feels the timing of the events is “more coincidence,” he said it’s still too soon to jump to conclusions.
“I’m not expecting anything, but I certainly won’t want to rule anything out,” LaCour said.