Woman Jailed After 400 Birds Found at Home

A woman was jailed after police and wildlife agents found hundreds of wild birds — many of them dead or neglected — littering her home and yard.

Raymona Balko (search), 70, was booked into the Benton County Jail for investigation of animal cruelty charges Thursday.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife (search) also is expected to seek charges for possessing protected wildlife and live wild birds, Sgt. John McIntosh said.

About 400 birds — including wild magpies, hawks, owls, pheasants and quail — were found at Balko's home during the raid, Detective Rick Runge said. Some were in cages, others were perched on curtain rods and still others were in trees or bushes outside, he said.

Dead birds in various states of decay were scattered throughout the house and yard, officers said. Bruce Young of Tri-City Animal Control said his staff also seized chickens and roosters, pigeons, a goose and peacocks, as well as a couple of dogs and a cat.

All the animals appeared to be neglected, Young and McIntosh said.

McIntosh alleged Balko was convicted of similar charges in 1992.

In a 2000 interview in the Tri-City Herald newspaper, Balko — known as the "bird lady" — said she would bring just-hatched chicks for children to see and touch at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo (search).

She claimed to have a degree in bird management from the University of Nebraska, and that she once had a federal permit to care for wild birds. People continued to bring injured, abused or unwanted birds to her even after the permit expired in 1988, she said.

Balko did not apply for court-appointed counsel and apparently will represent herself in court proceedings next week.