It’s the time of the year when American song birds have migrated away from the cold north east, but these finches have flown back to New York – against their will.
At JFK’s international airport last weekend, ABC News reports US Customs and Border Protection seized 70 live finches from a passenger.
The man, who had travelled from Georgetown, Guyana, was found to be carrying the flock of songbirds in a large, black duffle bag. Each had been carefully placed in individual plastic hair-rollers.
While the passenger was arrested for attempting to smuggle the live animals, the birds themselves were caged by airport border agents and are now under quarantine.
They are currently in the care of the US Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services.
“CBP Agriculture Specialists are the first line of defence to prevent the introduction of animal diseases that have the potential to cause significant damage to the nation’s agricultural economy,” Troy Miller of the department’s New York office told ABC News.
Quarantine is a standard procedure for animals seized at the US borders, though recently officials have been on the lookout for pathogenic strains of Avian Flu.
However this is by no means a ‘black swan’ occurrence. Boxes of finches have been smuggled into the US before.
In April two men were charged with smuggling 26 finches into the country, after they were caught in New York’s JFK Airport.
Smugglers have been intercepted using a range of devious packing methods such as toilet rolls or hair rollers to transport around 200 living birds. Most of these have come from South American countries including Guyana, reported the New York Times.