Murder in the Meadow

“Get your gear,” shouted Special Agent Huff. “We’ve got a body by the meadow.”

Agent Huff skidded the crime mobile to a halt and I jumped in. He took off across the grounds of the Nature Preserve, driving at breakneck speed. Creasey Mahan Investigative Services is on duty again, investigating the latest death.

Last week, we discovered one dead bird along the meadow, and frankly, didn’t think much of it. Three days later, however, we found four more feathered corpses in the same location. “It looks like a serial killer, Agent Huff,” I said, snapping photos at the crime scene. “Why would there be five dead birds, apparently the same species, in the same spot, with no blood or signs of violence?” I could not take any prints, and DNA for these victims was not in the database, so I consulted the experts with the Beckham Bird Club. After referring to the field guide, they all agreed that these were young European Starlings, recently fledged from their nest. But they reached no conclusion about the time or cause of death.

Agent Huff and I returned to the crime scene. A thorough search revealed a sixth victim nearby.

Ducky, the medical examiner, was unavailable, so we had to do our own post-mortem without his special expertise. There was no blood, no apparent wounds or broken bones, no sign of burns from electrical power lines above the bodies. The mystery started to drive us crazy.

Let’s review the possible suspects. Might it be a neighborhood cat? The bacteria in a cat’s bite can kill a bird, and cats will kill without eating their victims. But no feathers were mussed at all. Might these young stupid fledglings land on the hot power line directly above where we found their bodies? Yes, but six of them in the same spot over the period of a week?

Agent Huff added that he’d seen a raccoon in the nearby tree just this morning, and raccoons will get into a nest to kill/eat the chicks. We tracked this suspect to its lair in the tree, but couldn’t decide how it would catch young birds that can fly.

“Look at this photo!” I exclaimed. “These marks in the nest box are from a BB gun! From a distance, might a BB shot might kill a young bird without leaving an obvious wound?”

“Hmm. I might have to put up some security cameras, or maybe send Agent Wheeler on a stake out. If we have BB gun traders, we are in serious trouble.” Agent Huff frowned at the thought.

Back at the office, Agent Wheeler pondered the location where all six victims had been found. LG&E had come by recently to dig around the poles and sprayed some sort of chemicals there, presumably an insecticide to preserve the wood. Would that be strong enough to kill these young birds? Remember, a mother bluebird was very aggressive a few weeks ago in this same place. Maybe she was reacting to the sprayers.

It’s the end of this episode. This case will be classified as “unsolved” for now. But the Creasey Mahan Investigative Services team will be on the watch for more evidence.