Residents all over Chicago have been reporting a bizarre increase in bird carcasses over the last few weeks--most of them without any visible wounds--while the City of Chicago picked up 150 dead birds in September, a 50% increase from the month before.
The phenomenon isn't limited to a single species. Goldfinches have been found in Lakeview, a hawk in Andersonville, and a variety of other birds are dying mysteriously in the South Loop, Gold Coast, and Old Town, where one resident finds "about two new ones" every day.
Residents have taken to EveryBlock.com to report and discuss their findings, and many fear that West Nile virus might be to blame, especially after the widely-publicized death of a Chicago firefighter last week who appears to have been infected with the mosquito-borne illness.
Luckily, humans can't contract West Nile from birds. But if the virus is responsible for the increase in bird deaths, it could mean an increase in infected mosquitoes.
But researchers at Chicago Wildlife News and the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors have another possible explanation for the mysterious deaths. Autumn is migration season, so there are more birds in the air, which means more potential collisions with windows, cell towers, and glass skyscrapers.
The Chicago Department of Public Health will test the birds collected last month, which will determine how many of them--if any--were killed by West Nile.
If you spot a dead bird (or any dead animal, for that matter), call 311 as soon as possible, so that Streets and Sanitation can remove it and hand it over to the Department of Public Health for testing.