Today in LaBarre, Louisiana, about 500 dead blackbirds and starlings were discovered, say wildlife officials. The birds were discovered lying dead on roads between Morganza, La. and New Roads, La. on highway 10.
This latest bird kill-off follows the news that more than a thousand dead blackbirds were found on New Year’s day in Arkansas. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have been tasked with recovering as many birds as they can. The carcasses will then be sent to the University of Georgia for genetic and pathogenic testing to ascertain a potential cause for the mass death.
In addition to the University of Georgia, the National Wildlife Center, based in Wisconsin, will be receiving samples for testing as well. Dr. Jim LaCour of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries suggested that there might be no connection to the die-off in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve and the one today in Louisiana. LaCour says, “it’s not common [but] we do see a few die-offs for various reasons.”
LaCour went on to say that the cause of death is still unknown and that the birds should be considered biohazards. People should not handle or even touch the dead birds. Other scientists contacted for this story have suggested that the yet-to-be-identified issue could turn out to be a variant of a known virus that made it’s way through the bird population through a common exposure vector. In recent years, there has been concern over domesticated animals such as cows and chickens feeding from common sources on livestock farms. Could this biological agent, if that is indeed the cause, have been spread by a common feeding interaction?