As if the posturing of their bass-fishing, shirtless-posing, nonsense-spewing leader wasn’t enough for one news day, Russians have yet one more hiccup to contend with. Taking a page out of The Walking Dead or any George A. Romero classic, a recent plague of what Muscovites are calling “zombie pigeons” has infested Moscow.
“It all started last week”…dead and dying pigeons were being found, littered across the streets of Moscow. Reports began to come in of behavior uncharacteristic of those endearingly referenced flying rats. “Twisting their necks, walking backward in circles or standing completely still with their heads on the ground.”
One Moscow resident named Umid, noted, “When I walk to work, I usually see pigeons running and jumping around. But recently, they haven’t been reacting to anything at all. When a person walks past them, they used to fly away. But now they just sit there in a kind of funk and don’t pay attention to you. They’re just not normal. I’ve seen some pigeons behaving very strangely, turning around in circles.”
Another eye witness on Twitter said, “I saw a pigeon sitting right in the street, its bill resting on the ground. It’s like a bird apocalypse.”
Early speculation by the Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service of the Russian Federation for the strange behaviour and deaths focused on Newcastle disease, which is deadly to birds and easily transmitted to humans, though rarely causes anything more than simple pink eye and flu-like symptoms.
Moscow’s Veterinary Committee later clarified that recent autopsies performed on the birds have found that their mass death was due to salmonella poisoning. Veterinary specialists detected lesions on the gastrointestinal tracts and livers of the dead birds caused by salmonella, not Newcastle disease. Further, activators of avian influenza and/or psittacosis (an infection that can be transmitted to humans) have not been identified.
As strange as the “epidemic” may seem, it apparently happens every year, and is not limited to just Moscow. In fact, back in Winnipeg, starting roughly around the same time, a series of strange bird deaths have been reported in the city’s north end. West Nile and avian flu have been ruled out, and nothing unusual has been found in their stomachs, though complete testing has not been completed yet.
Whether this is simply another of Mother Nature’s incredibly bizarre yearly fluctuations, or pigeons feeding us fluff and fowl, or better yet Moscow simply saving face (remember Chernobyl?), this “zombie outbreak” brings a strangely eerie punctuation to the Kremlin stemming news of recent weeks.
Written by Andrés Markwart, a Contributor at Vancity Buzz. Connect with Andrés on Twitter at @AMarkwart.