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Georgia Scientists Investigating Large Bird Kill | News

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Georgia Scientists Investigating Large Bird Kill
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ATHENS, GA -- The mystery of the dead birds is now in the hands of wildlife pathologists at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.

On Wednesday afternoon, a box containing about a dozen red-winged blackbirds arrived at the laboratories of the university's Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. The birds came from Beebe, AR, where thousands of birds dropped dead on New Year's Eve.

Dr. Kevin Keel is among the scientists working to solve a feathery what-done-it.

"Birds always have a story to tell," Keel said. "It's always interesting to see if you can find out what happened to them."

Keel and others have also examined some of the hundreds of birds found dead in Port Coupee Parish, LA, a few days into the New Year. Scientists found broken bones and hemorrhaging, and have reached the preliminary conclusion that the birds died from trauma.

A quick look at the new arrivals from Arkansas also revealed signs of trauma.

"There's a little bit of blood on the feathers," Keel pointed out on one bird.

Witnesses in Beebe believe New Year's Eve fireworks startled birds there, causing them to fly into mailboxes and buildings.

Authorities in Louisiana believe it's possible the winged victims there flew into power lines.

Scientists at the University of Georgia will search for contributing factors like toxins, disease, even alcohol that could come from ingesting fermented berries.

Wildlife Pathologists at UGA do admit it's unlikely the birds were impaired by toxins, disease, or flying under the influence.

"If you have a disease or toxin, you'll have a trickle effect with the mortality rate," said John Fischer, Director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. "You won't have a large sudden die off."

Scientists at UGA say they typically investigate mysterious animal deaths, but typically not the scale of this one.

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