Customs and Border Patrol Agents arrested a 26-year-old Guyanese man after he arrived at the JFK Airport in New York on Sunday with 26 live whistling birds in hair curlers.
The birds were found stashed inside the man’s luggage.
US Customs Officers discovered the finches during a secondary baggage examination. CBP agriculture specialists consulted with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors who directed CBP to seize the finches.
The man, who was destined to an address in New Jersey, was not criminally charged; however, CBP assessed a $300 civil penalty and sent the man back to Guyana after allowing him to withdraw his request to enter the United States.
He was sent home but his birds were allowed to stay in the US and have been turned over to United States Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services.
“Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists face a very complex and challenging task and that is to protect our nation, our citizens, our agricultural resources and our economic security, and they meet that challenge with extraordinary commitment and vigilance,” said Marty C. Raybon, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office.
Over the years, several Guyanese have been held at US ports of entry during their attempts to smuggle the birds into the US.
The finches carry hefty prices since they are used for whistling competitions. A single whistling bird could be sold for as much as US$5,000.