Dead birds a mystery in Texas

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AUSTIN, Texas – The discovery of dozens of dead birds in downtown Austin prompted authorities to cordon off streets leading to the Texas Capitol for several hours Monday, but police reopened the area after tests revealed there was no immediate threat to humans, officials said.

“There is no threat to public health at this time,” said Dr. Adolfo Valadez, medical director for Austin and Travis County.

Detailed tests are being conducted at Texas A&M University and the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. Officials said it could take days or even weeks to pinpoint the cause of death.

The carcasses of more than 60 birds – including grackles, sparrows and pigeons – were found over a 10-block area just south of the State Capitol. The bulk of them were concentrated around Congress Avenue between 6th and 8th Streets, officials said.

The streets were shut down while emergency responders conducted tests and autopsies, but the results did not show the presence of dangerous chemicals or any threat to humans, authorities said.

Bird kills are not all that uncommon, but Valadez said it was unusual for such a large number to turn up dead in downtown Austin. Among the theories: intentional poisoning or disease.

“Birds are not the cleanest of animals,” Valadez said.

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