Bird brain: Feds bust man for smuggling finches for Brooklyn bird singing competitions

He hid the birds inside his carry-on bag while traveling from Guyana to JFK Airport on June 16.
U.S. Attorney’s office

These caged birds won’t sing!

A Connecticut man faces 20 years behind bars for allegedly trying to smuggle dozens of live finches through John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday to compete in Brooklyn bird singing contests, federal prosecutors said.

The defendant was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol when they discovered some 34 birds, each hidden inside individual plastic hair curlers, which were stashed in his carry-on bag during a flight from Guyana to Kennedy Airport in Queens, according to a spokesman for the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

All of the birds survived the trip from the South American country, according law enforcement sources.

The alleged bird smuggler told the authorities he planned to sell the birds at $3,000 a pop — or about $100,000 for his full flock — to compete in bird singing contests that usually take place in parks and public areas in Brooklyn and distant Queens, where judges determine which avian contestants have the best singing voices, according to the feds.

And while the defendant’s birds won’t be singing any time soon, he immediately waived his Miranda rights and admitted to smuggling the finches through customs to avoid the quarantine, telling investigators he knew what he did was wrong, but that the money was worth the risk, according to the authorities.

Bird singing competitions are typically accompanied by betting and a triumphant fowl can sell for more than $5,000, the authorities said.

Although homegrown finches commonly compete in the borough’s bird-singing competition, their Guyanese cousins are renowned as world-class crooners, making them highly sought after in the world of competitive bird singing, according to the authorities.

The defendant broke the law by not declaring he was bringing in live animals and by failing to do the necessary paperwork to import the birds, which also have to be quarantined for 30 days to prevent the spread of diseases carried by foreign fowl, such as Newcastle disease and bird flu, according to the authorities.

The birds are currently being held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
The defendant hid 34 finches inside plastic hair curlers, which he planned to sell for $3,000 each, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
U.S. Attorney’s office

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