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. b33n

    i hope they get run over by cars and stepped on by the locusts from gears of war!!! 2012!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    The reason they fell from the sky is easy.................. Gravity, now what might have killed them is the real question.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Turd Ferguson

    To all you self proclaimed bird experts:
    Would you take this for a swallow?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. astuartgirl

    @K-mAMa LOL Being from the South, I liked your post!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mr. Hoffman

    It's not just the fireworks, the birds in question were displaced, flying away from their winter home in the wind and hail for a long period to a place that seemed quite had them very stressed and tired..The Fireworks booming around ...got them in the air at night seeing the flashes not knowing the area unable to see they flew around till they became so exhausted they either died form heart attacks or fell & the crash killed them..Point is once they were in the air because of the fireworks they could not see where to land so they stayed in the air until they dropped.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. goodjob2

    "Blackbirds"?, have not heard from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton so it can't be a race thing. I’m going with some type of human interaction caused this..

    January 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. @Turd fergeson

    maybe an african swallow?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Cat

    5 bucks, all you can eat!!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. OI

    A few days ago a major scandal arouse i Denmark regarding imported poisonous fireworks from China. These fireworks contained one or more of the so called "Dirty Dozen" (chemical substances fatal to foremost aquatic life) that have been prohibited in Scandinavia for over 30 years. So, could poisonous fireworks from China have caused this tragic event?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Sound vibrations. New Years 2011 was almost a global celeration.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE

    I AM SATAN AND HAVE OFFICIALLY PROCLAIMED A CONTRACT OUT ON ALL BLACKBIRDS AND CARP. THEY MUST DIE SO YOU WILL BE REMINDED OF MY POWER TO INFLUENCE YOUR BOWELS IN A PUBLIC PLACE....HOPEFULLY IN A WAL-MART.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • lamo

      F Satan

      January 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE

      YOU MUST BE A REGULAR WAL-MART USER AND HAVE OBJECTED TO MY INFLUENCE. MY WILL BE DONE REGARDLESS. AND I WILL GET YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO.

      January 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lamo

    F birds

    January 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    but african swallows are non migratory.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. R u Kidding Me

    You all with the HE HE HE's and the HA HA's...better get ready, start asking for forgiveness. With most of you it’s too late. HA HA- HE HE………My God Bless his Children.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • lamo

      Wow ... passing judgement ... ? You ain't going no where but hell

      January 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jonnymac

      WOO HOO, YES FELLOW CHRISTIAN i TOTALLY AGREE, just after reading some of the comments you can tell they are searching for a scientific answer.lol when its just right in front of them..........may god help them all

      January 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      Hmmm...... "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will judged, and with the measure yo use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2

      January 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    The government experimenting new bio weapon?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      YES! Thank you... it's so obvious!

      January 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Stevelb1

    How about gravity?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
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