Police: Arsonist set birdhouses on fire, 5 birds survive

HOPEWELL TWP., N.J. (WPVI) -- Police in Hopewell Township, New Jersey are investigating an arson that killed a number of birds.

Five small birds called purple martins survived the cruel fire and are now being cared for at the Mercer County Wildlife Center.

Their lives were nearly snuffed out two weeks ago at the Saint Michael's Farm Preserve, where vandals tore down and burned a group of purple martin birdhouses, tossing them into a fire pit while there were birds still inside.

"It's pretty despicable that somebody would do something like this, come out to this wonderful area, and basically kill the birds," Hopewell Township Police Ptl. Mine Peterson said.

"It's horrifying really. It's just pointless. I can't understand ever why it would be fun for somebody to do that," preserve manager Bill Flemer said.

A scorched patch of earth marks the site where it happened.

The head of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, which owns and maintains the preserve, can't believe someone would do this to living creatures.

"It's shocking. Until now this has been a model of preservation. We are shocked that someone would not respect the wildlife on the property," Linda Mead of D&R Greenway Land Trust said.

Police are trying to figure out who would commit such an act of stunning cruelty and why.

"It's someone with extreme mental health issues that needs treatment right away and needs to be taken off the street or it's a person who's inherently evil and needs to be punished for what they've done," Kascik said.

The survivors were just days old when they were rescued and didn't even have feathers.

They are recovering well and have a tremendous appetite, each devouring 60 meal worms an hour, every hour for 12 hours a day. The wildlife center is asking for donations to help them care for the birds.

"We are going to move them into an outside flight cage and give them some flying time out there and continue to feed them out there and probably give them a week out there before we let them go," wildlife center director Diane Nickerson said.

Police are asking the public for information about who's responsible for the fire.

And when they are caught, they'll be facing arson, criminal mischief and animal cruelty charges.
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