For the second time in less than a month, border control officers caught a man attempting to smuggle live finches through the JFK airport.
Kevin Andre McKenzie took an overnight Jetblue flight from Georgetown, Guyana to the JFK airport, where he got off the plane and went through a secondary search.
According to the release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border control officers found 35 live finches hidden inside inidivual hair curlers, strapped to the 36-year-old. The finches in the hair curlers were strapped to McKenzie’s ankles and sewn into his coat.
Despite being generally noisy birds, McKenzie somehow managed to keep them quiet through the duration of the flight, though it’s unclear how or why the birds were so relaxed and quiet. All 35 finches reportedly survived the six-hour flight and are now in the custody of the US Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Services.
Article continues below
Our Featured Programs
See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!
It’s not clear how the smuggler managed to keep the notoriously chirpy songbirds quiet on the journey, but thankfully the birds survived the almost six-hour flight and were reportedly handed over to the US Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Services.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that finches were smuggled into the country in hair curlers. Just less than a month ago, a 26-year-old from Guyana was caught at the same airport with 29 finches in hair curlers in his suitcase.
Similarly, in 2018, 70 finches were caught in luggage stuffed into hair curlers. According to the New York Times, over 2,000 finches were confiscated from illegal smugglers in one year.
Guyanese finches are a commonly smuggled bird due to the demand for them in songbird competitions. Each bird can fetch $3,000-$5,000, making them a profitable commodity.
A court filing against McKenzie explains that ‘in such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000.’
Upon his arrest on Monday, April 26, McKenzie told officials he had been offered $3,000 to smuggle the birds in. But it sounds like he may have been short changed, as another smuggler caught in 2019 reportedly said he planned to fetch $3,000 per finch.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s release, McKenzie received a $300 civil fine and was sent back to Guyana, being deemed inadmissible into the U.S.Whizzco