Test results for dead blackbirds in north Alabama show trauma

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The test results of the group of blackbirds found dead in Limestone County Jan. 12 have returned and show signs of blunt trauma, indicating the birds flew into a large object, said Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan.

The test results showed the sample of nine blackbirds had broken legs and wings plus blood in their throats, said wildlife biologist Mark Sasser, who works for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He believes the flock of more than 50 blackbirds likely died after flying into passing vehicles on I-65 near Tanner, where they were discovered. The winter weather could have been indirectly responsible for their deaths.

"The winter weather has been fairly extreme and the stress takes its toll on the birds," Sasser said. "Snow stayed on the ground for five or six days, and alongside of the interstate was the only exposed ground and the only place for the birds to feed."

The sample of blackbirds were tested for other causes of death, including West Nile virus, influenza and toxins from ingesting insecticide, but all results came back negative, Sasser added.

Since Jan. 12, no other large-scale bird die-offs have been reported in the state, and Sasser noted that finding only three or four dead birds in a group is nothing to be alarmed about.

"We get those reports every winter because birds are a short-lived species and winter stress takes its toll," he said.

Commissioner McMillan said the bird deaths are not considered a human health threat but the public is urged to avoid or limit any contact with dead wildlife.

To report any large-scale bird deaths of about 50 or more birds, contact any of the following agencies:

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife Section

334-242-3469

USDA Alabama Wildlife Services

334-844-5670 or Toll-Free 1-866-4USDAWS

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries State Veterinarian's Office

334-240-7253

To see our video footage of the original discovery of the north Alabama dead blackbirds, click here.

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