Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grackle deaths still a mystery

Necropsy shows no trace of poison in bird

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Eleven living birds brought to the Winnipeg Humane Society earlier this week have been transferred to Manitoba's chief veterinarian's office.

DON HEALY / REGINA LEADER-POST ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Eleven living birds brought to the Winnipeg Humane Society earlier this week have been transferred to Manitoba's chief veterinarian's office.

It's still a mystery why dozens of birds dropped out of the sky dead earlier this week.

But if the case becomes a whodunnit, a pest-control operator says grackles should only be evicted from neighbourhoods with scare tactics and not poison.

Bill McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society, said an examination of the stomach contents of a dead grackle by one of the organization's veterinarians "didn't see anything abnormal."

McDonald said the 11 living birds taken to the society when found Wednesday on King Street were transferred with about 40 dead ones to the province's chief veterinarian.

'I thought it was a branch or something, but then I saw another one. Then I saw these other birds on the ground. It's gross'

A provincial spokeswoman said no test results have come back yet.

The dead birds were found outside the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata community centre, while about 20 or more were found on the roof of the building, some dead and others twitching.

One witness, who didn't want to give their name, told the Free Press at the time "I thought it was a branch or something, but then I saw another one.

"Then I saw these other birds on the ground. It's gross."

A worker for a company that picks up dead animals for the city speculated at the time the grackles might have eaten poison put on a roof intended for pigeons or rat poison.

But Lincoln Poulin, vice-president of the pest control company bearing his last name, said while "grackles are definitely a problem of people" you can't just go out and destroy them.

"They sit outside and wake people up. They are definitely a pest. But when you get to pest control it is only discouraging the birds."

Poulin said "scare tactics" can work.

"You can spray them with water. You can use noisemakers... Flash tape you can hang in the trees."

Poulin said another method is repeatedly destroying their nests in the spring after they have mated and laid eggs.

But Poulin said sometimes kindhearted Winnipeggers bring on grackle problems themselves.

"They put out bird feed because they want robins and hummingbirds, but grackles will come, too," he said.

"Everyone wants to feed birds... They want to attract good birds, but it also causes bad birds to come."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 A12

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