Sick crows drop from the sky

Northeast Portland residents reported crows falling from the sky on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 30. Audubon Society of Portland and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collected almost a dozen dead crows near NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and NE Jessup St., as well as one in the Park Blocks near Portland State.

The birds were seen falling as a large flock flew west, some seizing on the ground before dying. Because the crows appeared healthy, experts suggest they may have been poisoned.

“While it cannot be confirmed until the birds have been tested, the deaths are consistent with some sort intentional or unintentional exposure to toxic substances,” ASP stated in a press release. The dead crows were sent for necropsy.

According to The Oregonian, a similar incident occurred in December 2014 when nearly 30 crows died in downtown Portland. A federal investigation linked the deaths to the crows’ intake of a common pesticide used on farms, specifically from contaminated corn.

If the crows were intentionally harmed, resulting penalties could add up to $200,000 and prison time, as crows are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  

Flocks—or murders—of crows are a spectacular sight at PSU in the winter. Thousands of crows flock to the Park Blocks to nest and utilize the urban environment’s accessible food and nest supplies.

According to ASP Wildlife Care Center Manager Lacy Campbell, the dead crow found downtown was indeed poisoned. Test results for the others may take a few weeks.

Until results are confirmed, the risk dead crows pose to humans or pets cannot be determined, and the public is advised to avoid handling the birds. Any pets or other animals that scavenge on the birds require immediate medical attention.

ASP has offered a reward of $1,000 for any information that aids in the investigation. The public can report dead or dying crows to ASP by calling (503) 292-0304.