- MER ROUGE (AP) -- Thousands of blackbirds are dying in north Louisiana
and nobody seems to know why.
- For the past several weeks, Wanda and
Daniel Hudson of Morehouse Parish enjoyed watching tens of thousands of
blackbirds flying over their house toward Mer Rouge each morning.
- Each afternoon, they watched the huge
flock fly back toward Log Cabin.
- Then Monday, the blackbirds started dropping
from the sky into yards and ditches where they staggered and faltered,
many making their way out to Louisiana 425.
- The dead and dying birds have been littering
their yard and a five-mile stretch of nearby homes and highways ever since.
- About 50 birds lay dead in a stretch
of a couple hundred feet from the Hudson's home. Others teetered on the
highway's edge, dying.
- "It's really pitiful," Mrs.
Hudson said. "They are coming into our yard and dying.
- "It takes them awhile to die. It's
a slow, painful death."
- Hudson called the state Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries in Monroe on Monday.
- "I've never seen it hit like this,"
said wildlife biologist Jimmy Anthony. "There are quite a few birds
falling out of the air -- thousands."
- Anthony said the five live birds he collected
Monday died that night.
- An autopsy revealed nothing.
- Tests are being made at Louisiana State
University Medical Center to determine the cause, which Anthony said could
be a virus or bacteria, pesticide or even a natural toxin on a food supply.
- "I just don't know," he said.
"Sometimes these things stare right out at you, but this isn't one
- Mrs. Hudson walked over to a blackbird
sitting in her backyard.
- The bird didn't move with the approach
of people. Its head lolled dizzyingly from side to side as it shook before
attempting a few steps.
- Finally, it stopped, settled, and turned
its beak straight up. He remained that way for another 10 minutes.
- "He's trying to breathe. It's how
he gets air," Daniel Hudson said. "I've been in nature all of
my life and I've never been able to walk up on a blackbird."
- He snapped his fingers in front of the
dying animal. No response.
- The bird's rich teal and scarlet coat
took on a yellow tinge.
- "He's been out here for hours like
this, and he's likely to be out here a while longer," Mrs. Hudson
said. "But then again, he may be near."
- The Hudson's say they are anxious to
find the cause and whether it could be a health threat to other animals
- Already, Wanda Hudson has had to pull
a dead bird out of her dog's mouth.
- "We have lots of cows and squirrels
and other animals around here," Wanda Hudson said. "We have
a lot of people with kids."
- Anthony said he doesn't think the birds
present a health danger, but advises wearing gloves to remove them from
- "Just don't handle them, wear rubber
gloves to pick them up and place them in a plastic bag," he said.
"Viruses (in birds) usually don't affect humans.
- "The only real threat to humans
is if it bacterial."