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Why did the bird black out the Island?

WILLIAM McGORRY PHOTO | The gull who bit through an electric wire — a piece of it still in the bird’s mouth —  causing its death and a blackout of the whole Island February 12.

WILLIAM McGORRY PHOTO | The gull who bit through an electric wire — a piece of it still in the bird’s mouth — causing its death and a blackout of the whole Island February 12.

Blame it on the bird.

The blackout on Thursday afternoon, February 12, that knocked out electricity Island-wide, was caused by a gull that chewed through a wire at West Neck Road at Brander Parkway and Bootleggers Alley.

The bird didn’t survive, according to PSEG spokesman Jeffrey Weir, which was confirmed by Silver Beach resident William McGorry, who photographed the gull.

Power went out at 2:10 p.m. PSEG reported that 1,274 customers had power restored within seven minutes with 829 more back on line within eight minutes.

Another 112 customers, mostly in Silver Beach, were without electricity for an hour and 15 minutes.

Peter Capainolo, a staff ornithologist with the American Museum of Natural History, speculated that the cause of the incident could be related to the bird seeking a snack. He viewed a photograph of the gull and identified it as “a not quite mature herring gull,” who was, by the look of it, Mr. Capainolo said, “obviously fried.”

The ornithologist said he had never heard of a gull chewing through a wire. “Gulls have very strong beaks,” he added, but their beaks are probably not strong enough to completely snap a wire. He guessed the wire might have been frayed a bit and the gull was attracted to the combination of bright cable and insulation peeking through. “Birds like shiny stuff,” Mr. Capainolo said.

Veterinarian and Island birder Dr. Bill Zitek said the gull might have taken a shellfish up 20 feet, dropped it to the pavement and plucked the meat to feed up on the PSEG pole. The bird’s table manners might have been a bit sloppy and it mixed the meat with a partially frayed wire, resulting in his electrocution and some inconvenience for Islanders.

“Poor bird,” Dr. Zitek added.

Mixing shellfish with electricity was a strong possibility, concurred Mr. Capainolo, but he still thought it probably was just a case of a nosy bird who got into some fatal trouble.

“Curiosity killed the gull,” he concluded.

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