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.


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.


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. donkey

    Floating invisible UFO people. Hasn't anybody seen signs?

    January 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Josie

    Its ashame all these beautiful birds died. I believe they all died as a result of the fireworks being set off.
    They are small creatures and sensitive to sounds,smoke & vibrations that can cause their dead..........these deadly results were caused by humans who don't care about wildlife but instead care more of having fun.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ben

    Please do not use "theories" when you mean "hypotheses".

    January 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. uptown_gal

    I think those green pigs have something to do with it.....

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

    a wizard did it

    January 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dl

    I saw this in a flash forward

    January 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David

    If flashforward were still on the air we would know the reason for this, curse you ABC!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. K-mAMa

    Knowing dem Arkansas natives, they all passed-gas sy-mo-tane-iously (<- i made it easier for Y'all ta reed!), from the
    wonderful diet most folks there eat!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. God id man made

    Even the name of God is man made, as is all writing, beliefs, and fears. Evil and good is a concept that only man understands and creates as an explanation to why he does things. Animals and plants conform to a different standard. The entire Earth is alive, not by a being that desires our worship, but by time itself. If there is a God, (who remains silent), he is laughing at all of you religious fanatics.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Letter from God

      I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:1)…
      For I am the perfect Father (Matthew 5:48)…
      Every good gift you receive comes from my hand (James 1:17)…
      I gave My SON to give you forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16)
      My plan for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11)…
      Because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)…
      For you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5)…
      And I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3)…
      I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)…
      When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18)…
      One day I will wipe every tear from your eye (Revelation 21:3-4)…
      Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7)…
      I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15)…
      My question is…will you be my child? (John 1:12-13)…
      I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32)…
      Your Everlasting Father

      January 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. b33n

    my teacher cried and i laughed

    January 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. YoYo

    All the birds should be given to the blind kid from Dumb and Dumber....

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


      January 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nordicmetalhead

    Have fun with this, considering they just discovered thousands of dead fish alongside the discovery of the dead birds in Arkansas.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. b33n

    y'all are bein stupid

    January 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CGardner

    I live here in Beebe and we have a black bird problem every year about this time we get an OVERLOAD of birds during their migration- nest here in our small town! they stink and they are loud and they fill the trees so much that our trees look as if they have black leaves on them! I dont think the dead birds that fell are from any "end of time message" or any government act – I really think someone in the neighbor hood got tired of them and decided to try and get rid of them only causing a "flock" to die, and they only counted from 2 to 3 thousand not 5 thousand (in the public area)not sure if they even checked the field behind the neighbor hood to see if any died there as well.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      So, you're saying they deserve to die because they're loud, stink, and fill the trees? I've seen plenty of people who fit at least two of the criteria. Are they fair game?

      January 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • CAt

      So what did this "person" use to simultaneously kill thousands of red winged black birds and hundreds of thousands of fish in your state? Is this "person" also causing thousands of earthquakes in your state as well? What method do you think this "person" used. I'm just trying to get you to really think and do your own research. I think people are not taking this seriously enough. Don't fall into that "normalcy bias" trap. Go to infowars.com, watch endgame and Zeitgeist. Just do some research for yourselves people. Read about what is going on in the world right now. http://economicassassin.blogspot.com/2010/12/china-must-kill-dollar.html While the entire world looks on at the despair being seen in places such as Greece and Ireland, many are failing to see what is fast becoming the worst economy in the developed world, America.

      There is not a single developed nation that is as dependent on another country for survival than the relationship the U.S has with China. In the last year, the US has been calling China a ‘currency manipulator’ – and they are quite right in their estimation, however, were it not for China manipulating the Yuan, then the U.S Dollar would have failed a long time ago.

      January 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Earthling

    It was a US drone target practice to kill 5000 talibans with one shot....

    January 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
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