Dozens of blackbirds found dead in Prince William

NOKESVILLE, Va. – Prince William County police say dozens of blackbirds were found dead along a Nokesville Road and authorities are investigating the cause.

The birds were found near the intersection of Aden Road and Fitzwater Drive on Thursday afternoon. Officer Jonathan Perok, a county police spokesman, estimates that fewer than 100 birds were found. He says a Virginia Department of Transportation crew cleaned up the birds.

Perok says the birds may have been exposed to poison or caught in a power line surge. He says animal control officers don’t believe there is any threat to the public, but a few carcasses were sent out for testing.

Starlings, grackles and cowbirds are all considered to be in the blackbird family, says Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

“There are a number of things, there could be lots of reasons why. Mass die-offs, mass killings many could be man-made but some are environmental,” Clark says.

If the birds were poisoned, they would have died elsewhere, he says.

Wildlife Center of Virginia is a veterinary hospital for native wildlife in the state and takes care of everything from humming birds to black bears. Last year, they treated more than 1,000 birds.

“It is not uncommon for large numbers of blackbirds to roost in a fairly small area,” Marisa Lubeck, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey, says in an email. “There are many reports of migrating birds becoming disoriented at night from fog and other weather related events, or lights on transmission towers, and colliding with trees, towers and other objects.”

In a January 2011 report on bird deaths, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said large wildlife die-offs are fairly common but should never be ignored.

“Although wildlife die-offs always pose a concern, they are not all that unusual,” said Jonathan Sleeman, director of the survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. “It’s important to study and understand what happened in order to determine if we can prevent mortality events from happening again.”

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