Bird Deaths In Mascoutah, Illinois and Erie, Pennsylvania

October 21, 1999 ­ 

1) Mascoutah, Illinois Red-winged Blackbird Deaths

Last weekend on October 16-17th, a large flock of birds migrating south through the mid-West landed in two fields near Mascoutah, Illinois. That's a small farm community about 30 miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Residents noticed the birds were not moving and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was notified. Their agents got into the fields to collect birds for analyses. Agents reported that all the birds - mostly male red-winged blackbirds, some grackles and other blackbirds - had their wings outstretched, laying tilted to one side with their beaks sticking straight down into the soil.

Male Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoenicus  © 1993 Kirtley Perkins.
Male Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoenicus © 1993 Kirtley Perkins.

As of October 21, 1999 the official count was 27,000 birds dead over twenty acres and the cause was declared deliberate poisoning of seed grain with the insecticide, Furadan. A reporter and photographer from the Belleville Illinois News Democrat got to the fields before all the birds had been picked up. I talked with Tim Vizer who is the newspaper's Chief Photographer about his assignment to Mascoutah.


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