Bird deaths shut down downtown Austin

It’s weird to read about something off Yahoo! News that’s happening a few blocks from my house that otherwise I’d be totally unaware of. Congress Avenue is closed from the capitol to Town Lake and anyone who works in the buildings that line it will not be allowed into the area until noon. This should play havoc with bus traffic, too.

It’s a clear, cold morning here in Austin. Now, as I tend the garden, I’ll be looking for downed birds.

Bird flu? Poison gas? Stay tuned for updates.

9 Comments so far

  1. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 10:01 am

    Very odd. I came out of the shower this morning to a text message from my sister that cryptically read: “Is closed cuz of birds?” I had no idea what she was talking about, so I turned on News8.

    Here’s a few more links:


    Some of them mention sick cops in addition to the birds, but since not everyone’s reporting it, I’m not sure it’s true. Sounds like there was another press conference at 9:15, so we’ll see. Probably overreacting unless the sick cop part is true.

  2. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 10:26 am

    CNN’s picked up the AP story. There’s some weirdness going on in Manhattan today too.

  3. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    News8Austin’s update at 10:47am claims they’ll be opening it up soon. They mention up to 60 birds were found and there’s no mention of any people, police or otherwise, feeling sick.

    I was thinking about it and, given the number of grackles I’ve seen in and around that area on some weekday evenings over the last month or so, 60 birds is a pretty small fraction of the hordes that swarm the area. Maybe somebody got tired of their crap and did something to poison them?

  4. mss (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

    My first thought, too–someone’s poisoned the birds purposely like in that rooftop scene in “24 Hour Party People”.

    According to KXAN, Dr. Adolfo Valadez with Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services, says large numbers of bird deaths are associated with severe weather. Weather the last few days has been pretty calm…the birds were reported at 3AM. We had big thunderstorms last Wednesday and Thursday and Friday were breezy.

  5. Noah (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

    As mentioned, NYC is also having some oddities… Someone call Mulder and Scully!

  6. Rantor (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

    My bet’s on free-lance pest control. Some years ago, as I recall, there was a pigeon poisoning at the Medical Park building; more recently than that I seem to recall an episode in Bastrop. There are plenty of parts of downtown that don’t smell salubrious, thanks in part to birds and thanks in part to human beings.

  7. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    And it’s over for now. Congress opened back up just after noon. The Statesman has a good postmortem (sorry).

    The most interesting section? Apparently it’s legal to poison most of the birds found dead:

    “It is legal to poison rock doves (a type of pigeon found commonly in the Austin area), grackles and some sparrows”, said Jack Ralph, the head of the kills and spills team at the Parks and Wildlife Department.

    “But if you target those species for control, you’d better darn well target that species and harm nothing else.”

    “We have urban bird kills every year,” Ralph said. “They’re typically associated with a dirty feeder. It’s the best intentions of someone trying to feed birds. One sick bird visits the feeder and can leave pathogens on the feeder that are quite lethal to other birds.”

  8. Regina (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

    I read today on the CDC website that bird kills this early in the season are a precursor for West Nile Virus. I sure they are testing the dead birds for everything. Just one more thing to worry…I mean think….about.

  9. mss (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 4:47 pm

    Isn’t Austin a bird sanctuary; that is, isn’t it illegal to kill any bird within Austin? Whether the birds are protected or not, I’m sure the downtown businesses and banks would like to get their hands on whomever is responsible…if someone did this on purpose. They must have lost a lot of revenue being closed down half a day.

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