MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - The Nassau County Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found hundreds of pigeons living inside a home in Merrick on Thursday.
As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported, neighbors on Abbot Avenue in Merrick were shocked upon finding out the home – normal-looking from the outside – was secretly a giant pigeon coop.
The pigeons were uncaged and flying freely within the two-story red brick home located near the junction of Bangs and Olin avenues, authorities said.
"We always had a clue," said neighbor Laurie Lamonis. "There were birds on the top level looking out the windows."
But neighbors said they had no idea the total was 350 birds – a massive collection of mature birds and newly hatched ones.
Investigators said the 64-year-old man who lived in the house alone with the pigeons allowed them to fly freely inside. But he never set them free.
"They had no way to get out," said neighbor Kathy Murray. "I mean, they were just locked in the house -- and the smell."
It was a sickening scene, with two feet of caked bird droppings and birdseed casings throughout, Nassau County SPCA spokesman Gary Rogers said.
"It's a horrendous situation," Rogers said. "You can't even walk around the house. You can't open the doors because of all the pilings of bird droppings."
Rogers said a Buildings Department crew working on an unrelated case reported something was wrong at the Abbot Avenue house.
The bird rescuers found the homeowner in bed connected to an oxygen tank with birds all around him.
He was taken to the hospital and his home was boarded up, declared unfit for humans and animals.
Neighbor said the man lived in the house for decades and back in the 1990s was sociable. But more recently, they stopped seeing him.
"He been a recluse -- became one with the birds," Lamonis said. "I guess human contact was no longer any good and the birds did it for him."
"This doesn't happen overnight. This is years and years and years," Rogers said. "If the public sees something, we're asking them to make a call. We can help. We can stop it from getting like this."
Rogers told 1010 WINS one of the SPCA officers fell through the rotted floor and was taken to the hospital with cuts and bruises on his head.
PSEG Long Island was called in to shut down power out of concern that a spark could set off a dust explosion from all the dried droppings, 1010 WINS' Al Jones reported.
The pigeons were removed from the house, which has been ruled unsafe, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported.
for more features.