(Reuters) - Grain laced with a pesticide and deliberately
spread on an
Illinois farm field killed at least 25,000 blackbirds,
most of them belonging
to a protected species, investigators said on
- ``It appears it was a commonly used agricultural insecticide
applied to some grain that was then spread in the field, apparently for
the sole purpose of eliminating a population of blackbirds that were
to be a nuisance,'' said Joe Khayyat, a spokesman for the
of Natural Resources.
- ``It looks now like we have
25,000 dead birds,'' he added.
''We're still picking them up.''
- He said the owner of
the farm about 30 miles (48 km)
southeast of St. Louis was cooperating
with the investigation but no one
had been charged and it had not been
determined who put the grain in the
- The birds were found last week
with their beaks pointing
to the ground, leading naturalists to think
at first that a violent storm
or downdraft might have flung them to
earth, crushing them. But laboratory
tests indicated pesticide was the
culprit, Khayyat said.
- About 80 percent of the birds are red-winged blackbirds,
a species protected by federal law and common to Illinois but one which
also migrates southward in the autumn. The other birds killed were
- Killing the red-winged blackbirds, Khayyat said, is a
violation of the law and could result in fines.
- ``There are thousands of these
birds still roosting in
this very area,'' he said. ``During migration
it's not uncommon to see
flocks of 10,000 to 25,000 at a time. Whoever
did this apparently perceived
them as a problem.''