A 39-year-old Connecticut man has been caught trying to smuggle nearly three dozen live finches through John F Kennedy Airport in order to sell them for singing competitions.
Francis Gurahoo was arrested after arriving in New York on a flight from Georgetown, Guyana.
Prosecutors say customs officials found the 34 live birds in his carry-on luggage hidden inside individual plastic hair curlers.
Gurahoo was detained on a charge of unlawful wildlife smuggling.
Officials say the finches from Guyana are prized for their singing voices.
They are used in singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens, where wagers are placed on the birds with the best voice.
Prosecutors allege Gurahoo said he planned to sell the birds for about £2,300 each, for a total haul of more than £80,000.
Last December, customs officials at JFK Airport found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers in a duffel bag from a passenger arriving from Guyana.
US customs and border protection said bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu.