Monday, January 3, 2011

More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky

Officials are investigating why more than 1,000 birds - most of them dead - fell out of the sky in the US state of Arkansas on New Year's Eve.

The Arkansas Fish and Game Commission (AFGC) said it began receiving reports of the falling birds at about 2330.

By midnight, more than 1,000 red-winged blackbirds had fallen in one area of the city of Beebe.

The birds could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail, said AFGC ornithologist Karen Rowe.

About 65 dead birds have been sent off for scientific analysis to determine the cause of death.

It does not appear as though the birds were poisoned, Ms Rowe said.

"Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds and only involved them falling out of the sky, it is unlikely they were poisoned, but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin," she said.

Tornadoes swept through Arkansas and neighbouring states on 31 December, killing seven people.

However, the AFGC did not say whether the blackbird deaths could also be attributed to the storms. ...

via BBC News - More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky.

Autopsies will begin Monday in laboratories in Arkansas, Georgia and Wisconsin, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which is heading up the investigation.

It may take a week for results to come in.

For now, investigators are scratching their heads at the strange phenomenon. Between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on New Year's Eve, about 1,000 birds fell from the sky in Beebe, Ark.

Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the AGFC, suggested lightning, high-altitude hail or celebratory fireworks may have played a role.

Horace Taylor, an animal control officer in Beebe, told CTV's Canada AM he believes the birds were scared into flight by fireworks. Because they have limited night vision, the birds then simply started to fly into objects and each other.

"We're pretty sure it's fireworks that caused it," Taylor said.

"The birds were frightened, they started flying and flying into one another, running into trees, houses, cars and everything they could hit, and it killed them, that's what I think happened."

The dead birds -- which have all been collected -- fell in an area about 1.5 kilometres long by 800 metres wide...


1 comment:

Ann said...

This was reported on January 3rd. Although this report says 1,000 birds were found dead, other reports say the number was around 3,000.

Two days earlier, January 1st, this was reported:

"Massive fish kill blankets Arkansas River" (CNN) - near the town of Ozark 125 miles west of the massive bird kill of Beebe.

Then, one day later, January 4th:

"Another large bird kill reported, this time in Louisiana" (Brett Michael Dykes, - 500 red-wing blackbirds and starlings were found dead.

But, hey, don't worry, because this same (Jan. 4th) article says all these critters died of "natural causes":

"Officials in Arkansas say that the thousands of dead birds and fish discovered there over the weekend died of natural causes."

And, if you dare suspect anything else ... well, you're labeled, as implied in the last sentence of the article:

"As you might expect, others are insinuating that something more sinister is going on.", the source of the Jan. 4th article, also has, coincidentally, an article from NY Daily News entitled:

"Natural causes blamed in deaths of thousands of birds, fish in Arkansas" (by Michael Sheridan and Lukas I. Alpert, Jan. 4th)

This article describes the "natural" causes as (Capitalizations are mine for emphasis):

" ...[about the bird deaths] MAY BE that nothing more nefarious than severe weather that night was the cause."


"Other explanations COULD BE New Year's fireworks causing birds to lose their way, OR poisoning."

Although ...

"Many of the birds APPEARED TO HAVE injuries consistent with hitting the ground, ... IT IS NOT CLEAR if they were already dead when they landed, officials said."

As for the fish...

"IT APPEARS that IT COULD BE a disease, because it just affected one species ... WE DON'T BELIEVE it's environmental, because it would have killed a lot of other fish, ... "

The phrases "may be," "it could be," "it appears" etc., doesn't seem to indicate anyone is really sure what killed the birds or fish.

But, HEY! don't worry, the critters were killed by "natural causes," even though no one is really sure!

-- -- - -

One may note, however, because of its place in the food chain and unlike other fish species, the fish in the massive kill in the town of Ozark was the freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)and it is susceptible to lipophilic pollutants such as PCBs and Benzene. So, one shouldn't necessarily rule out environmental causes for the kill.