“Zombie pigeons,” as they have been coined, have caused panic in some Russian areas, with locals contacting authorities about the birds’s strange behavior change.
“When I walk to work I usually see pigeons running and jumping around. But recently they haven’t been reacting to anything at all,” Umid, a local from Moscow, was quoted by The Independent as saying. “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 even pay attention to you. They’re just not normal.”
Website Slon.ru Science columnist Konstantin Ranks wrote that pigeons have been acting as if they were drugged, reacting slowly and stumbling around.
“Before death, they start to resemble zombies: they lose their orientation and fly without a sense of direction, then fall, already lacking the strength to get up,” wrote Ranks, reported the Guardian.
According to other reports, the pigeons ignore humans and vehicles approaching them. Some locals said the birds have even walked into oncoming traffic without showing concern for the oncoming vehicles.
“I’ve seen some pigeons behaving very strangely, turning around in circles,” Umid added.
Officials with Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service said the birds were infected with the Newcastle virus, reported the Moscow Times. The virus can be spread to humans.
However, RT.com reported that the birds are likely suffering from salmonella poisoning.
Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief sanitary inspector, described pigeons as some “of the dirtiest, stupidest birds there are,” giving reason for their strange behavior.
“We are especially worried about children’s playgrounds… And if a dead bird is found on the balcony, it must be washed with disinfectant. Doing this, one must be wearing rubber gloves,” Onishchenko told RT.
But the Guardian reported that some Russians believe the birds’ behavior is the sign of the apocalypse.
Moscow has had incidents of mass bird deaths in the past, including one three years ago. At the time, officials blamed the die-off on smog.