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. DOMINIQUETYREKERASHEED

    Watsup ya'll its your boy dominiquetyrekerasheed back in the building. I read this story and i was like DAMN! thats a lot of birds man.You know what i think man, I think that them red birds probably got by them blue crip birds man. Did ya'll see the lakers memphis game, them lakers got blown out.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HA

    TO: ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE. Wow! That is funny!

    January 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rosa Roubinian

    No tyreke

    January 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mdmh2

    1)HAARP
    2)Chemtrail
    3)UFO
    Take your pick...

    January 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      oh HAARP for sure!!!

      January 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kat

    If everyone would look to God, they would find the answer. The end of days is coming sooner than we expect....Im not a bible thumper or anything, but dang, what I learned when i was little is starting to scare me just a bit. Maybe...but its just a theory.........

    January 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gdisncontrol

    It's not hard to understand the word of God. Revelation actually speaks what will be happening. At the beginning, Adam wanted to blame Eve for the bite of the apple. Now man wants to blame weather related, fireworks, poisoning and diseases for the causes of the death of the birds and the fish. God is actually showing his signs from the book of Revelations. People wake up and read the word and know that God is in control. It's important of how to hear from God, but in the book of Mark 4:9 "And He said to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" It's ashame that when you have ears to hear, you still don't hear what is saying, but you hear what you want to hear. The same with seeing what you want to see. You have to know that, everything in the natural world is connected to the spiritual world. God is in control people. Wake up from sleeping in the natural of man.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • OI

      Have you read biology of any kind at any time? There are 6 billion people living on this earth today. A 100 years ago there were 1,5 billion. In a century the population of man has quadrupled. The last 50 years carbon dioxide emissions has gone bananas and is at its highest level since the era of the dinosaurs. Along with this the global temperature has risen to a point were the north pole has ice-free summers. This slows down the Gulf Stream which keeps Europe warm during the winters. If America were to read science to the same extent as the bible there would be much less talk of Armageddon and a lot more about a flourishing future!

      January 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CNNscienceteam

    Because they never fall up.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tido

    Talk 2 those scientists running the haarp project.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Duane Cunningham

    Has Anybody thought of the possibility of Volcanic gases or related toxins getting into the water supply? 1 mile radius, perimeter is what draws my conclusion that this may be a possibility.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rosa Roubinian

    Now let me tell you something, you should not say things like that tyreke. And by the way I did see the game, the lakers did not get blown out.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • DOMINIQUETYREKERASHEED

      WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WOMAN!

      January 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MAR

    1. Does anyone REALLY buy the initial theories / reports that the birds were "scared" or "stressed" to death?
    2. Someone commented on methane release; Is anyone familiar with CO2 sequestration?
    3. CO2 release would cover both the birds and the fish; as well as make lots of people nervous as industry has hundreds of millions of cubic feet of various types of gas no one can breathe stored in "natural underground" geologic features all over the country... but especially the southeast.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cboy

    There was a Flash Forward...

    January 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE

    AFTER THE BIRDS AND CARP ARE ALL DEAD, I THE LORD AND MASTER OF HELL, WILL CONCENTRATE ON THE POMERANIANS. THEY REALLY HAVE NO PURPOSE, AND NOBODY WILL MISS THEM ANYWAY. I WILL ENSURE AT LEAST ONE FROM EACH HOUSEHOLD BE USED AS A NEW FLUFFY ENVIRONMENTAL PILLOW PET. "IT'S A PILLOW, IT'S A PET, IT'S A PILLOW PET".

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

      Good one! Sounds like a great movie!!

      January 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • ALL BLACK BIRDS SHOULD DIE

      THIS IS MESSAGE FROM MY FRIEND BLACKIE THE BLACK BIRD:
      "I killed my family after landing in a field, and looking through a window of a farmhouse. What I saw was the downfall of humanity....a Lady Gaga video being watched by a 350 lb hoggie woman in a thong. Sorry, but our species should not endure this pain any longer. I would much rather watched a Michael Jackson video, but you people insist on being "culturally updated". The carp I associate with have all agreed, and have insisted I take them with me to birdie-heaven. We have consulted with Satan on this matter, and are being welcomed to his kingdom...pending the destruction of all Pomeranians".

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

    You have to admit that something more serious is going on here.
    – target same species of birds?
    – target same species of fish?
    – unusual weather phenomena – tornadoes and flooding at this time of year?
    – strange earthquakes?
    – and all on the last day of the year?
    What else happened in the region that the media has been forced to keep from us? Come on, surely you can think further than that? We are obviously been kept out of the loop about what is really going on. Anyone can speculate, but what it comes down to is that we are being kept in the dark about what is really a concern and affecting our lives. We'll probably find out eventually, and it will most likely be too late to do anything about it. Our leaders just don't have our best interests in mind. Unfortunately money and power rules, and not prosperity. I'm ashamed to call myself a human when I see what's happening to this planet and how politics eat away at our freedom like a cancer. I can't see things getting any better – we're in a downward spiral to selfdestruction.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Thank you I 100% agree with you and don't understand why no one else really gets what's going on here!!

      January 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. AnimalDiscrimination

    Slingshots. Thats the answer. And evil pigs.

    January 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
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