Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm seeing dead birds

I wouldn't recommend reading this over breakfast, as it is about dead birds and clueless people at town hall.

When we came home from our vacation two Fridays ago, we found a dead bird under the front bumper of the car in our driveway. Dave disposed of it (he comes in handy that way). Jill over at Scary Mommy accidentally let a few baby birds into her kitchen last week, and I was like, wow, that's crazy, but it's better than having a dead bird welcome you home from vacay.

Last Friday, Sabrina was playing outside and came running in. "There's a deaded bird!" she announced. "And bugs are eating him!" Sure enough, there was a dead baby bird on our front walkway. It looked like the one above only...deaded.

I am not typically the type to freak out about West Nile Virus (transmitted by mosquitos, carried by birds), but two dead birds in two weeks is weird; we've lived here for eight years without a single bird tragedy. I asked Dave to store the bird in something so we could get it to the health department, why he chose my best Tupperware container I can't be sure. He put it in the wood bin where we keep recyclables.

This morning, I went outside before work to take some pictures of these irises because flowers I grow never look this good, typically because they get run over by the kids. As I headed back in, I spotted a little bird sitting on our walkway. My heart sank. "Please don't be dead, please don't be dead," I muttered as I walked around him.

He looked like the other baby bird, and he was in the exact same spot. Could they be related? I thought. Is he paying a condolence call? Was I having a Sixth Sense moment and seeing dead birds? But, no, the little guy was alive. He blinked at me, then stood up and waddled off into the bushes. Clearly, he was ailing. I did the mature thing and ran inside.

As I walked to work, I put in a call to town hall. First I left a message for the guy who runs the health department, then I got some woman from pest control on the line. I told her what was going on.

"We test the water in the city for the presence of West Nile Virus," she said.

"That's great!" I said. "But I have had two dead birds on my property in two weeks, and one about to kick the bucket. I think something may be up."

"Well, we've tested the water for West Nile," she repeated.

"OK! But I think the health department might want to test the bird we saved."

"You have to get it to them within 12 hours or they can't test it," she told me.


"OK, then, we can't test the dead bird. But don't you think someone might just want to come check our property and see what's going on and maybe check in on the sick bird?"

"We've tested the water for West Nile," she said, and by then I'd realized I might as well have gotten a pre-recorded message.

Later, I sent an email to the mayor. The head nurse for the health department called soon after. The Board of Health official I left a message for is on vacation for two weeks. "But we've tested the water for West Nile and you'll be happy to know it's negative!" she chirped.

By this point, I was getting a wee bit wrought. "WE'VE HAD DEAD BIRDS!!!" I said. She agreed to consult with the "supervising" health official and get back to me tomorrow. How much would you like to bet they are going to tell me they have tested the water? On the Center for Disease Control's West Nile Virus page, "Fight the Bite!", there is some good, helpful information on battling mosquitos, but there is not a single tip on how to deal with town hall people.

I got home from work and did that one eye open/one eye closed/please don't let me see anything awful thing as I walked into the house. It did the trick because I didn't spot any dead birds, although I did nearly kill myself by tripping up the stairs. I shoved the poor Tupperwared bird into two garbage bags and begged Dave to get rid of it (I think he may have a future in that). Then I sprayed the entire wood bin with Method Pink Grapefruit Cleaner, because that's pretty much the answer to everything. While I did that, I got a bunch of mosquito bites, thereby ensuring my candidacy for West Nile Virus.

As I headed back inside, I noticed these huge black carpenter ants scurrying around our back porch.

And that's when I wondered why we ever decided to move out of the city.


  1. yikes...thats creepy about the birds...and annoying about the phone calls...

    Maybe you have an ancient bird buriel ground under your

    Geesh...I must admit though..your writing made me giggle a bit ;)

  2. We had that, a black crow that just stood in front of our house and wouldn't fly or move or nothing OR let anyone enter. I called everyone, finally, the cops came...and they just bagged him up and gone.

    I called and asked, "will you test? see what's up?" they say, "we have no procedure in place."

    It is SCARY.

  3. We had a similar thing going on when I lived on base and it turns out. . . the base was poisoning birds! They were having some issues with bird flying at the planes so they were laying out poison. Maybe one of your neighbors is laying it on a little heavy with the weed poison? Or maybe mom dad and the birds are starving?

  4. If the town isn't getting you anywhere, I would contact state officials (Dept of Health, DEC) until you do get a response. Also, ask your neighbors if they are seeing the same thing. If they start getting reports from an entire neighborhood it might make them move faster.

  5. Gah!! I hadn't even thought of West Nile. Now I'm dying from touching that bird. Great.

    (Oh, your flowers? That's what they're supposed to look like? Wow!)

  6. No one's irises look that good--because those are lilies (probably stargazer)!

  7. No other bird deaths in the 'hood, which I guess is a good sign. NOT that the so-called health dept. asked!!!

    Katy, those are good q's. I will ask around about weed killer, though isn't that stuff supposed to be safe these days! Eek.

    And Jen, yes, if I get nowhere will contact state.

    And Jill, I hope the West Nile takes awhile to kick in so I can enjoy the awesome irises.

  8. Oops! Lilies! I am such a city girl. But I do know a deaded bird when I see it.

  9. We had this MASSIVE crow in our tree a few weeks ago. My mom made me come look at it because it's the biggest bird we've ever seen. The first thing I said was, "If that thing dies I'm calling the health department."

    Although West Nile doesn't seem to be as bad this year as it has been?

  10. We're in South Orange and I read in the "Gaslight" paper a few weeks ago that the town is studying any dead birds in order to track/find any West Nile Virus deaths. Not sure what town you are in but maybe you can call S.O. to get info? Good luck - that is a bit scary.

  11. Just a random side note...are you sure those are irises? They look like Stargazer lilies to me.

  12. Mo, yep, they're lilies! I learn so much from this blog. :)

    I just called the health dept. in the town next to us. Sure enough, THEY are testing dead birds. The animal control officer there said it's state law! What is UP with my town?! I'm re-emailing the mayor.

  13. 1st thing - city bureaucrats. Yep, difficult. Do you have a city council? Contact your rep's office. They usually have aides that will track down what their constituents need.

    2nd thing - Are the birds wrens? Just asking 'cause we have several families of wrens whose babies were just old enough to fly out of the nest. But not old enough to fly completely. The parents try to scare everyone & everything away from the babies that don't fly well and keep them fed. The babies stick to the low bushes, etc, until they can fly. Lots of tragedies happen during this time when the babies are very vulnerable. We had a wren family with 2 babies. I tried not to look too closely, 'cause I hate nature's tragedies.

    NOT trying to talk you out of W. Nile; just sayin ...

  14. a few things to consider, if you found dead baby birds on your property, it could be that the parent/s were killed by cats. Most baby birds spend 2-3 weeks on the ground learning how to fly and find food that their parents feed them and drop infront of them. There could also have been a nest raided by a bird or cat putting these babies on the ground before they are able to thermoregulate. The night cold would do them in. If they had west nile, they would show neurological signs. Shaking, falling down, head tipping backwards/sideways stubbling. most people can be bitten by an infected mosquito and have enough resistance to be fine. Fly catching birds such as swallows and phobes are great to encourage into your yard because they eat the bugs that are biting you and do not pose any threat. Corvids do not have the abililty to fight off west nile so if you start to see dead crows, scrub jays or ravens in your neighbourhood then you would need to contact vector control. Small song birds do have some resistance. Hope that helps ease your concern a bit.

  15. While I take the seriousness of the topic, well, seriously, I just want to say you write SO well!! VERY FUNNY! Refreshing, coming from a blog.

  16. Update!!! The head nurse called the Health Officer on vacation (it pays to email the mayor, I guess). Evidently, the state is not requiring every town to test birds for West Nile, it's optional. Our town is still focused on testing the pools of water that mosquitos hanging out in for West Nile; it's a better measure of West Nile, since birds can migrate from other towns. Though the head nurse is keeping a log of dead birds. Crows and bluejays are the biggest concern. Also, three dead birds (cause I am certain that last bird I saw was on his last leg) is not a huge concern, 10 would be. They think the heat is a big factor.

    Anonymous and others, thanks for the helpful thoughts and reassurances.... Brenda, I'm going to look for a nest. I don't think a cat is to blame, because neither of the dead birds were chewed up.

    OK, that's enough obsessing about dead birds for one day for me!

  17. Ok, ok, enough about dead birds and enough about correcting Ellen on her stargazers, but since we are talking about flowers. I am a full time florist and my company is having a garden contest, I will post the link, check it out the winner gets a $500. credit from our store, you don't have to live in our state to enter,or to win. People send flowers all the time through the states and that is how you could use your credit if you win. Who wouldn't want Fresh flowers every month or on Holidays etc. Ellen if you have anymore images you can send up to 4 of your garden.Then like most contests it goes by a voting system so if you belong to a fb or twitter you may get lots of votes and make it to the finals,then our judges determine the final winner. It's easy and fun!

  18. Freaky. I wish I knew something about flowers and/or animals but I too am a city girl ... posing as a Mountain Mama:)

  19. You do know that the probability of getting seriously sick from West Nile infection is miniscule, right? After the first outbreak in the NY area, they did blood tests on lots of residents. Dozens had antibodies, and most of them couldn't remember getting sick at all. Others remembered only a mild fever or headache.

    It's considerably less dangerous to humans than influenza. Sorry for the poor birdies, though, whatever's killing them!

  20. i've found a couple of dead hummingbirds. they look like they just fell right from the sky. it's so weird.

    and kind of creepy. and really gross.

    do you remember though, a few years ago, when all the crows died? yeah...west nile!
    i hope it's not back!!

  21. this morning a watched two birds die in front of me. they were convulsing and then died. one was on my property in short hills the other in downtown millburn. this is too weird. i am worried my dog is going to find one of these birds in my back yard and get sick.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...