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. Judgemofo

    MSNBC said their stomachs were empty and they died from blunt trauma to the organs....????

    January 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Roy

    The Truth is out there.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lame duck

    the theory of 2500 poeple killing 2 birds with one stone doesn't hold water, Arkansas population is only 250

    January 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Snow White

    How do we know for sure if the birds died? The could just be under a magic spell, sleeping.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheshire Cat

      Has anyone treied to wake the birds or the fish yet? I mean c'mon man...check their pulse before you say they died...what's wrong with you people?

      January 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry C. Lyons

      they're not dead, they're just pining for the fjords.

      January 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. salayem

    It is a pleasure watching how ignorant Americans are.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Parakeet Joe

      Get back to work Obama

      January 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. grammarpopo

    "Only kidding

    The question Should of read.What are you?An English teacher?"

    ONE of my pet peeves: People using "of" when they should be using "have". "Should of" has no meaning, whereas "should HAVE" does. Just saying.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cheshire Cat

    I'm thinking the crop circle hoaxters became bored and threw dead fish in the Arkansas River near Ozark one night, then threw dead balckbirds around Beebe the next night...Happy New Year!

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

    Nope try Tesla's Death Ray, Sonic Cannon, or The Electromagnetic Bomb
    – a Weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction. http://www.ausairpower.net/ASPC-E-Bomb-Mirror.html

    January 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. boocat

    Hey – wasn't that a scene from the show "Flash Forward?"

    January 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. boocat

    It's that pesky ol' "God" again up to no good.....

    January 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Harles

    omg people get it right. they are obviously regular birds who got their brains rewired by terrorists and were ordered to fall out of the sky as suicide bombers and attack unsuspecting people partying outside on New Years

    January 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheshire Cat

      Hirohito's Kamikaze Air Force Reincarnated...I Love it!

      January 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. otter

    It was Super Marios bird power that went haywire in world 5 galaxy

    January 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rebecca

    Looks like ABC's Flash Forward is actually happening LOL

    January 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. aczanteson

    What about people shooting guns off on NYE?

    January 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amy

    This was all an expiriment.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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