Here’s a crazy story (thanks to one of our loyal readers, Kristen Farquhar, for passing it on to me). On New Year’s Eve in the small Arkansas town of Beebe, blackbirds starting raining down from the sky. Concerned citizens called the odd occurrence in and once the Game and Fish Commission confirmed this wasn’t a prank, it sent one of its wildlife officers to look into it — sure enough, blackbirds had fallen from the sky.
Environmental services collected 2,000 of the dead birds but say the total number killed is over 3,000. Some they couldn’t get to and some were certainly snatched up by scavengers like cats.
It is quite clear the birds died from “blunt trauma.” “The birds obviously hit something very hard and had hemorrhages,” said Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist.
The reports starting coming in after a series of loud noises:
Neighbors reported five to 12 booming noises in the eastern part of Beebe, a community of 5,000 northeast of Little Rock. “They reported it sounding like a cannon or transformer exploding,” but officials are still investigating to find out what the noises were, Rowe said.
So, what did the birds hit. Well, that’s the question. Here are some ideas, as well as reasons why they don’t make sense:
- maybe it was a fast-acting pesticide (no, “because they would have eaten it during the day and died long before they began to roost at night”);
- maybe it was a slow-acting pesticide (no, because it “wouldn’t have affected them all at the same time”);
- maybe it was a hail storm (unlikely, as “they would have had to be flying for that to happen, and at that hour red-wing blackbirds are asleep”);
- bad weather had hit the region on Friday,.. maybe lightning or hail could have caused the death (but a local forecaster said that the worst of that weather was well east of Beebe by the time the birds died);
- maybe the birds were scared by some loud fireworks and started flying but tried to avoid the upper sky due to the fireworks and flew into buildings and other obstructions (Robert Meese, an avian ecologist at the University of California-Davis, says: “I don’t see any way that they could have flown into obstructions, because then the birds should have been at the base of the objects. … This was a scattering.”)
Well, we’re running out of ideas here.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” Keith Stephens of the Game and Fish Commission says. “I’ll bet you I’ve had 100 calls today, I’ve done 25 interviews. I did Al-Jazeera live last night.”
I would have to lean towards thinking the birds were hit by hail, fireworks themselves, or were scared by the fireworks and flew into buildings and other obstructions (of course, there are reasons above why each of those possibilities may not be true).
If you have any more knowledge on this matter, please share it below.
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4. Sudden Fish Kills, Bird Die-offs, and Other “Fortean” Events
Photo Credit: Warren Watkins/AP via USA TODAY