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Bye Bye Blackbird: USDA acknowledges a hand in one mass bird death

One in a series of mysterious mass bird deaths in the past month was the product of a USDA avicide program, which began as operation Bye Bye Blackbird in the 1960s.

A worker with US Environmental Services, a private contractor, picks up a dead bird in Beebe, Ark. on Jan. 1. The USDA said it killed hundreds of starlings in South Dakota this week.

Warren Watkins/The Daily Citizen/AP/File

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It's not the "aflockalyptic" fallout from a secret US weapon lab as some have theorized. But the government acknowledged Thursday that it had a hand in one of a string of mysterious mass bird deaths that have spooked residents in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Dakota, and Kentucky in the last month.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took responsibility for hundreds of dead starlings that were found on the ground and frozen in trees in a Yankton, S.D., park on Monday.

The USDA's Wildlife Services Program, which contracts with farmers for bird control, said it used an avicide poison called DRC-1339 to cull a roost of 5,000 birds that were defecating on a farmer's cattle feed across the state line in Nebraska. But officials said the agency had nothing to do with large and dense recent bird kills in Arkansas and Louisiana.

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