What made thousands of birds fall from the sky?
Officials estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 similar red-winged blackbirds fell out of the sky.
January 3rd, 2011
10:41 AM ET

What made thousands of birds fall from the sky?

It has become one of the strangest stories to come out of the New Year and one of the most puzzling for scientists and local officials: Just what caused 5,000 birds to fall from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve in Beebe, Arkansas?

As news of the story spread across the globe, so did speculation about what caused the Hitchcockian scene. And as officials wait for the official necropsy (animal autopsy) report, we're taking a look at some of the theories that officials and scientists have suggested.

Weather-related

Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the incident is not that unusual and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. This theory could hold in this case, she said, especially because a strong storm system moved through the state earlier Friday.

Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the commission, told Reuters that storm weather, including hail or lightning, could be the culprit, but so far, he had yet to see any sign of injury on birds that were collected.

Rowe told Live Science that events like this have happened across the globe, and generally, weather is to blame. She said birds have been swept up and moved when caught up in hurricanes, wind can force them into a large object like a cliff, or large groups of birds can clash and crash in heavy fog, killing them.

Fireworks

On CNN's "American Morning," Stephens told Kiran Chetry and Jim Acosta that in addition to weather, local New Year's Eve celebrations may be to blame.

"We're leaning towards maybe a stress event," he said.

Stephens said revelers, "possibly shooting some fireworks while the birds were roosting," could have scared them, causing trauma.

"That could have been what caused their deaths," he said.

But birds don't fall out of the sky whenever there are fireworks, so what makes this event different? Stephens said that in rural areas, birds can be more concentrated. And if fireworks were set off near them in a roosting area while they were sleeping, such a trauma could have killed them.

Poisoning or disease

Rowe said it wasn't likely that poisoning or another illness could be to blame.

“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 in a commission press release.

Officials have also said that because the situation was isolated, and because other groups of the birds in separate areas were not killed, they don't suspect the birds were poisoned.

For reasons similar to why they don't suspect poisoning, officials told Fox 16 in Arkansas that the bird deaths probably aren't related to any kind of disease.

Air toxins

Air tests by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality came back clean for any toxin, KTHV reports.

soundoff (728 Responses)
  1. Epic person (Ern-ben)

    well, this is odd, but I kind of enjoyed watching this :D, burn them all down to the ground mwuahahahhahaahahahah :]

    January 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RENATO CRAZY HORSE

    All right folks!! THE END IS NEAR!!! LET`S CELEBRATE!!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Epic person (Ern-ben)

      yeah!!! 😀 2012 for the win!

      January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rachael M

    Cheney did it.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. b33n

    i agree with ernben kill them all!!!!!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. clopper

    nobody gives a s88t about bigfoot

    January 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bspurlock

    someone keeps posting as me, acting like a child that needs beaten.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. b33n

    so fxxk him!!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Epic person (Ern-ben)

    ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE

    I INTENTIONALLY POISON FIELDS TO KILL THESE FLYING RATS!!! IF IT WINDS UP KILLING FISH, I AM SORRY. BUT ALL CARP (SCAVENGERS OF THE DEAD) MUST DIE ALONG WITH THEM. I AM SATAN, AND I AM WARNING YOU TO CHANGE YOU WAYS, BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP THE ONE TRUE MASTER OF YOU ANUS!!!!!!

    --
    very dark indeed O__________o, also are you racist? 😛

    January 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. b33n

    racist coffee man, racist coffee

    January 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim

    Maybe it's Armegeddon. Arkansas would be a good place to start, or Idaho (Redneck-Central).

    January 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. George

    End is near!! 2012.. Some signs of GOD

    January 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Epic person (Ern-ben)

    you will die birds once i f*** you birds (including mexican ones_
    --
    where are all these coming from?!!?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DaBosun

    I'm pretty sure it was gravity that caused them to fall from the sky.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bspurlock

    that wasn't me

    January 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. PeoplePaula

    Arkansas Nuclear One sits directly between the birds and the fish!!!! The dead birds flew due east of the nuclear plant to Beebe after sunset. The dead fish floated directly up the Arkansas River to Ozark. SOMETHING HAPPENED at the plant on New Year's Eve – it's SO obvious!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
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