Researchers in Madison testing dead birds - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Researchers in Madison testing dead birds from Arkansas, Louisiana


MADISON (WKOW) -- It seems like a scene out of a horror movie: 5,000 birds falling from the sky dead in Arkansas; then a similar occurrence happening days later in Louisiana.

Madison scientists say this situation isn't that unusual.

The experts at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center say they'll work to determine *why the thousands of birds in both Louisiana and Arkansas were found dead.

Preliminary results from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission experts shows the birds in that state died of massive trauma.

In Louisiana, experts say the birds may have flown into some power lines.

In Madison, experts won't speculate yet, but they started necropsies Tuesday on the 43 birds they received from Arkansas. They also received five from Louisiana; necropsies for those birds likely won't start until Wednesday.

Scott Wright, Ph.D., the Branch Chief of Disease Investigations at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, said, "Fortunately no, the world isn't ending. I can certainly understand the concern. Obviously folks want to know what's happening, when they wake up and there's dead birds outside. No doubt, there's some alarm. But with our expertise, we'll come up with an answer as soon as possible."

The center plans to perform necropsies and run different tests on about half of the birds they received, including sending the brains to toxicologists.

Dr. Earl Green, Amphibian Disease Specialist for the center, said he wouldn't speculate before results were in about what the birds had died from. He said, "It's not clear whether it was fireworks, lightning, or hail.. or something else. We're looking for evidence of trauma, internal bleeding."

Seeing a huge die-off like this isn't necessarily unusual for the center. In he past 16 years, they've seen blackbirds die by the thousands: 30 times. But it's the circumstances, that make this one a bit different. This one happened at night, when red-winged blackbirds typically are roosting. They normally don't fly at night. Another unusual circumstance: the timing of the deaths. They were very abrupt.

The Wildlife Health Center here hopes to have some preliminary results in Wednesday; all results could take a week to come back.


MADISON (WKOW) --  Researchers at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison will perform tests on dead birds from Arkansas Tuesday.

As 27 News first reported Sunday, thousands of red-winged black birds dropped dead from the sky on December 31, in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas.

Since then, scientists have speculated as to what caused the phenomenon. Some have said stress from fireworks, others have said a weather event may have caused the trauma, like lightning or hail.

The National Wildlife Health Center has received 42 birds, and will necropsy about 15. The Wisconsin lab is one of the few National labs that handles species outside state borders. They say bird die off isn't usually uncommon, but it's unusual in populated areas and in large numbers.

Teresa Mackin is heading over to the National Wildlife Health Center here in Madison Tuesday afternoon, where they'll be performing necropsies on the birds to try to determine what exactly happened to the birds.

Researchers there say it may take up to a week to find results.

Stay tuned at 5, 6 and 6:30 for more on this developing story.

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