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. n orm

    EDGAR CAYCE IN 1940 PREDICTED THIS READ HIS MEMOIRS...

    POLES WILL SHIFT....MANY SIGNS FROM THE SKY....

    THE EASTERN PART OF CANADA WILL BE SPARED AND NOT TOUCHED...

    MIDDLE USA WILL BE FLOODED, NEW YORK WILL BE UNDER THE SEA....

    READ URGENTLY EDGAR CAYCE WRITINGS .... FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW!!!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fanofsanity

      Schizophrenia. Get treatment.

      January 9, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    I think all we need to look at is where the nearest Genetically Modified Crops are in proximity to where the Birds fell....Monsanto OWNS 1/4 of the WORLDS Seed supplies....where are the Tea Par-tiers to bust up the Monopoly?

    January 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Megan

    CNN needs to put an actual "Scientist" or "Science-Reporter" on this story and follow it and report on it with much more truth, transparency and credibility or they will start to lose viewers who may no longer find them to be reliable sources of news/information. You are supposed to be providing an actual News-Service to your viewers.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kitty Galore

    I sent 5,000 of my finest ninja ferals to do battle with the insidious Beebe Redwings...you bet it was blunt force trauma...not one blackbird was spared...Meow!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. humbleservant21

    Zephaniah 1
    2: I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.
    3: I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked: and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.

    Belief in The Lord Jesus CHRIST (the Son of GOD) is the ONLY Way, Truth & the LIFE!!! Believe it or not... I hope & pray many do unto salvation! "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness"

    January 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Al Ien

    It might have been a large, fast moving and cloaked spacecraft. The poor birds never saw it coming.

    January 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kaine

    I hate birds. I only wish it were 10,000 which fell from the sky

    January 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noona

      I hope you are joking that you hate birds... The insect population would be out of control if there were less birds!
      Get ready for more mosquito bites! And probably all sorts of other out of whack things to come...

      January 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Megan

    BJs anyone?

    January 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. McDonald's

    Hurry before they are all gone...get your coupon for free McNuggets and Filet of Fish while supplies last...offer good only at all Northwestern Arkansas McDonald's...

    http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/full_menu/chicken/mcnuggets.html

    January 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. humbleservant21

    the only theing I don't like about the bible, is the part about gays being an abomanation. guess God couldn't get it all right.

    January 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greater Power

      Oh jeez...wet your hands, grab your laptop electical cord, and feel the power...you know what makes me sad...maybe you can waltz over to mamby pamby land and find a spine, or some Geico insurance...need a tissue?

      January 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • humbleservant21

      "As for GOD, HIS way is perfect"... HE hates ALL sin, though some are particularly abominable! The fall of Adam (the 1st one) brought consequences for disobedience on all mankind, ("but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" Gen 2:17), thus immediate spiritual & then eventual physical death in all of us occurred (seemingly lost world, do you know anyone over 130?.. adam lived to be 930!) ... "soul that sins, that soul shall die"..."Appointed to men to die once, & then the judgment"... GOD talks/commands.. we humans never listen to our detriment, but for HIS Grace!!!

      But, the last Adam (The Christ, The Son of GOD) was obedient unto death, to pay the price for many to avoid the righteous/just wrath of GOD, (giving sons of men, again, spiritual/eternal LIFE, making them sons of GOD)... believe in HIM! We were not originally created to die.. HE is the GOD of the living, not the dead... but the law is the law! HIS wrath is being unleashed on this world, which will most certainly end very soon... believe that.

      "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." Psalm 2:12
      humbleservant21@yahoo.com

      January 3, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Metal Wings

    That all blackbirds from Beebe saw Johnny Bravo riding a malicious giraffe and gravity done the rest

    January 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Popologuy

    ANy one looked into the only logical reason for these mass deaths? 5,000 birds and 100,000 fish, STUCK in Arkansas? Suicide is the only solution.

    January 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cheshire Cat

    105,000 feral cats in Arkansas are saying "Yeah Baby...dinner is served!"

    January 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mhouston

      You're about as funny as a rubber crutch! Go back to your comic books, dimwit!!

      January 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. n orm

    POLE SHIFTS BEGINNING...

    CAUSING DISTURBANCES IN MAGNETIC FIELD...
    CAUSING BIRDS SENSE OF DIRECTION FAILING AND BEING DISORIENTED...

    THUS, FLYING TO HIGH BEING DISORIENTED FROM MAGNETIC SHIFT BEGINNING.

    THE BIRDS ARE FLYING BEING DISORIENTED TOWARDS THE STRATOSPHERE, FREEZING,
    DYING AND AGAIN FALLING TO EARTH...

    IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE POLE SHIFT AND MAGNETIC DISPLACEMENT....NORTH CHANGE TO SOUTH
    POLE, SOUTH POLE CHANGING TO NORTH POLE...

    THIS IS SCIENTIFIC FACT NOT FANTASY OR SPECULATION...

    GOOGLE POLE SHIFTS...IT HAS OCCURED BEFORE IN THE PAST AND IS NOW HAPPENING AGAIN..

    January 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheshire Cat

      Dude...whacha smokin? Don't be a bogart...pass that puppy around...

      January 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Google pole shifts? Lol, I actually believed you were some crazy fanatic until you wrote that.....

      January 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Norm has been hanging out at cheers too long
      during the last 200 million years a total true polar wander of some 30° has occurred, but that no super-rapid shifts in the Earth's pole were found during this period. A characteristic rate of true polar wander is 1° per million years or less. Between approximately 790 and 810 million years ago, when the supercontinent Rodinia existed, two geologically-rapid phases of true polar wander may have occurred. In each of these, the Earth rotated ~55°

      January 3, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mel G.

    Yes Megan please!

    January 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
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