The U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to be responsible for the mysterious death of hundreds of birds in the New York tri-state area.
Residents of the area reported hundreds of dead birds covering lawns, homes and cars with some saying they saw the birds literally falling from the sky.
New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Donna Leusner told the Associated Press that the bird deaths were part of a USDA program to control the European starling population in the area, with the birds being fed a "controlled substance."
"The dead birds pose no hazard to people or pets because the substance has been metabolized inside the bird," Leusner told the AP, citing a USDA advisory.
European starlings can cause a great deal of agricultural damage and are abundant in the U.S. with the USDA estimating the winter population being somewhere between 750 million and 1 billion birds.
According to the agriculture department, the birds cause more than $150 million in damage to grain, fruit and berry crops. The birds are also reported to cause damage to feed lots with the USDA estimating an average loss of $5,000 per day for feed producers.
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