Mystery Solved - 25,000
Blackbirds Were Poisoned
http ://
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Reuters) - Grain laced with a pesticide and deliberately spread on an Illinois farm field killed at least 25,000 blackbirds, most of them belonging to a protected species, investigators said on Wednesday.
``It appears it was a commonly used agricultural insecticide applied to some grain that was then spread in the field, apparently for the sole purpose of eliminating a population of blackbirds that were perceived to be a nuisance,'' said Joe Khayyat, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
``It looks now like we have 25,000 dead birds,'' he added. ''We're still picking them up.''
He said the owner of the farm about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of St. Louis was cooperating with the investigation but no one had been charged and it had not been determined who put the grain in the field.
The birds were found last week with their beaks pointing to the ground, leading naturalists to think at first that a violent storm or downdraft might have flung them to earth, crushing them. But laboratory tests indicated pesticide was the culprit, Khayyat said.
About 80 percent of the birds are red-winged blackbirds, a species protected by federal law and common to Illinois but one which also migrates southward in the autumn. The other birds killed were starlings and grackles.
Killing the red-winged blackbirds, Khayyat said, is a violation of the law and could result in fines.
``There are thousands of these birds still roosting in this very area,'' he said. ``During migration it's not uncommon to see flocks of 10,000 to 25,000 at a time. Whoever did this apparently perceived them as a problem.''