40 finches found in hair rollers inside man’s luggage at NYC airport

NEW YORK — For the second time in several weeks, an airport traveler attempted to hatch a bird-brained scheme, federal authorities said.

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Officials found 40 live finches hidden inside hair rollers in a man’s baggage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release Tuesday.

The discovery of the birds by CBP agriculture specialists occurred Saturday in the luggage of a 36-year-man who was flying into the United States from Guyana, the agency said. Nearly 30 finches were found in a man’s luggage at the New York airport on March 28, WABC reported.

In Saturday’s incident, the man was not criminally charged but was fined a $300 civil penalty and sent on a plane back to Guyana the same day, WPIX reported.

His final destination was listed as New Jersey, according to WABC.

“CBP agriculture specialists are the first line of defense to prevent the introduction of animal diseases that have the potential to cause significant damage to the nation’s agricultural economy,” Marty Raybon, acting director of field operations for CBP’s New York office, said in a statement.

The finches were quarantined and turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services, customs officials said in the news release.

More than 50 million turkeys and chickens in the U.S. died or were intentionally killed in a 2015 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza -- also known as bird flu -- according to the USDA Economic Research Service.

The agency said that is about 12% of the country’s egg-laying population and 8% of the estimated turkeys raised for meat, WPIX reported. Losses were estimated at more than $1 billion, the television station reported.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Ryan Noel told WNYW that the importation of finches “shows the horror of wildlife trafficking.”