The streets of Moscow have been littered with dead and dying pigeons in recent weeks, prompting fears the birds had fallen victim to a "zombie apocalypse".
Video footage of the birds twisting their necks, walking backwards and standing motionless in the paths of oncoming traffic added to the alarm, Russia's Life News revealed.
According to RT.com, initial reports had suggested the birds' abnormal behaviour was caused by Newcastle disease - a virus which can spread to humans.
"Before death, they start to resemble zombies: they lose their orientation and fly without a sense of direction, then fall, already lacking the strength to get up," wrote Konstantin Ranks, a science columnist at the website Slon.ru.
But Russia's chief sanitary official Gennady Onishchenko has since announced the birds are actually suffering from salmonella poisoning.
He announced the news at a press conference on Friday, and ensured his contempt for the animals, which are understood to have died extremely painful deaths, was made clear.
He said: "In the hands of Picasso a pigeon became the embodiment of peace.
"But in fact, in a sanitary sense, it is the most untidy and one of the most stupid birds," the Moscow Times reported.