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Mystery surrounds recent mass bird deaths

NEW ORLEANS - It isn't easy being a blackbird in the South.

First, New Year's Eve fireworks were blamed in central Arkansas for making thousands of blackbirds confused, crashing into homes, cars and each other.

Then 300 miles to the south in Louisiana, power lines probably killed about 450 birds, littering a highway near Baton Rouge.

It's almost certainly a coincidence the events happened within days of each other, Louisiana's state wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour said yesterday.

Mass bird deaths aren't uncommon. The U.S. Geological Service's website listed about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife since June.

In Louisiana, the birds died late Sunday or early Monday in the Pointe Coupée Parish community of Labarre, 30 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. The mixed flock of red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings may have hit a power line or vehicles in the dark, LaCour said.

In Beebe, New Year's revelers spent the holiday weekend cleaning up dead red-winged blackbirds. Officials acknowledged that they may never know exactly what caused the large number of deaths. - AP

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