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. John jacob odawa

    I think the fire works used during the new year and christmas celebrations had some poisonus contect with reacted with the birds.I cant be food because probably not all the birds ate from the same place.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harold

      I am suspecting too many people on cell phones just before midnight.
      Cell phone towers could be the culprit,but if it is,they will never admit it.
      Take two cell phones and call one from the other and leave them connected,place them about eight inches apart and place popcorn between them and see what happens.

      January 3, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe massey

      hey it wasnt cell phones, nut case

      heard on NPR, pathologist says trauma caused birds deaths. witness heard loud booms, likely fireworks cannon, scared birds, they flew and hit trees, houses, etc. sad for these wonderful red winged black birds.

      January 3, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan Heymann

      John – you are the only one I can reply to. I want to send a message to Harold. He's not too off about the cell phones. Many micowave towers are located in LA, TX, and AR. None in Beebe ? Very stange incident and I had plans to move to AR.

      January 4, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jan Heymann

      Beebe is a railroad town. Most microwave towers are located on railroad right of way. From what I have read.

      January 4, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mahhn

      @ Harold, dude I won't call you names, but that was a hoax about popping corn. I do know that Cell towers cause some problems (EMI interference) but a phoine does not use enough energy to pop corn LOL.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      Its porbably sattelites with high-frequency transmitters, most likely from another country, focused in a small area on land. Those paticular fish and birds prob have same brainwave freq. Causing them to freak out at night and fly around until there brains scattered. Some country that hates USA is prob trying to send a message. I say Bring it, but wait till obama leaves office and we get a president that has a pair.

      January 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • connector

      Did birds and fishes might have something absolutely in common? There are reports of a masive amount of dead fish around the world too. Both of them share water resourses to live. Particularly fresh water, that eventualy ends in the sea. I think it might be something related to the water resources.

      January 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christie

      Okay so fireworks are causing all these birds to fall from the sky, or lightning or hail??? NO!!! How would only one species of bird be affected???? Why didnt other species of birds fall from the sky other than the red winged blackbird? READ YOUR BIBLES PEOPLE!

      January 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ChrisC

    I read most of the posts, I agree with ruling out weather and fireworks. I don't know much about fracking, but it could be plausible, as can the birds being poisoned,fish as well. Remember just like humans, animals will be more susceptible then other animals to certain diseases, etc. Also I am open to the God idea as well as something to do with an event about to take place. An earthquake, pole shift...2012, it still early lets see what else happens.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeanne

      Check out HAARP.gov

      January 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick hammona

      shut up u a lame cuz hit me up at 6788560040

      January 6, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kila solai


    January 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeanne

      HAARP.Gov That's the Culprit 4Sure!!!!

      January 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Christopher

    this is crazy!!!!!!!!:O

    January 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jnyc

    that must have been some mean chili...

    January 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. andrew

    it was more than likely a recreation of the 24 hour party people "pigeon scene"

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

      that was my first thought

      January 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. n orm



    January 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nyonben


      January 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChrisC

      This should be given some consideration, unfortunately some people are very narrow minded and/or scared to think of this. The earth has undergone radical changes over thousands of years, maybe another change is coming.

      January 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Loki42

      No, it is not closed mindedness. It is common sense. First, there is no imminent pole shift coming in 2012. Second, a pole shift would not cause 5000 birds to drop dead out of the sky. Screw with their migratory direction? Sure. Suddenly drop dead? No.

      January 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ipsut

      Yes and it caused them all to immediately to dive straight into the ground,

      January 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • donimus

      thats a good point – the earth is constantly wobbling on its axis the tilt of the earth happens. However that occurs every 100 million years or so. We could be in that period, a year use to be 550 days instead of 365 – a day use to be 21 hours – tilting caused that. That being said l think the natural gas scenario is most possible – remember not to far from there 100,000 fish washed ashore dead. The earths axis and orbit don't affect them.

      January 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      The poles have been shifting since the begining of time.

      January 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. April

    I think it is hilarious that we all use this comment space to push our own agendas. Either we are the grammar police, the pro-religion or anti-religion movements, or trying to garner attention for ourselves by the lame jokes we crack.

    Here's my agenda: minute-by-minute news stories are a terrible idea. This story tells one fact (birds falling from the sky) and then fills the rest of the allotted space with guesses and conjecture. If you don't know an answer, don't report guesses. This is why we have so many conspiracy theorists. You can't trust what you read

    January 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheshire Cat

      Especially if April wrote it...

      January 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Yes, I agree April minute-by-minute news stories are terrible, but 618 comments and counting, I bet CNN disagrees....

      January 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mhouston

      You got it, April. But it's OK to report an event even though the causes of it remain unknown.
      What's not funny is the fact that we have so many dimwits in our society who are so willing to
      show the incredible depth of their stupidity! If you think this lot of morons is bad, check out the
      story about the ex-pentagon official whose body was recovered from a landfill in Delaware.
      I'm sure the dumb joker, Cheshire Cat, will have a field day there.

      January 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yea That

      I side with this comment

      January 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • donimus

      You nailed it April – if you notice a lot of these comments are always wannabe funny one liners – this is how rumors and innuendo get started – they get this from those late night comedians, if they crack a joke the seriousness of the issue is diminished. Unfortunately a lot of America has turned insensitive like that.
      So some guy sitting in a dark room hunched over with warts and moles all over his face – little hands and big feet can sit at his monitor and make his self appear to be a mini jay leno or something, nothing it seems is sacred anymore or better yet respect has been lost.

      January 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Harles

    this is a sign of the end of the world and the people to blame are the stupid MYANS......................they planned to tell evryone that on their incorrect calendar, the world was gonna end in 2012 and not tell anyone that it was really gonna end in 2011 so no one will expect the world to end yet

    January 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • burgundy

      First you wrote myans, and is Mayans second no body can be sure when the world is going to end, me personally thing that then end is not going to end, but it will change so it can get all what us humans have take from her, and still taking from her without remors.

      January 6, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Blake Wells

      everyone thinks it is going 2 end in 2012 but thts just when they stop makin calenders cuz they're too lazy and maybe some of us should read the bible to see if it does give us signs when the world comes to and end

      January 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blake Wells

      the world ends when everyone takes their place like your accomplishments in life and tht can never stop because babies are born pretty much every minute so tht is what i think

      January 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kirk

    They knew they had to sign up for ObamaCare in 2011 so they off'd themselves.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      lmao! Thats funny kirk

      January 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • michelle


      January 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL!!!!!


      January 3, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ralph

    Same thing happen in South America. Go figure!


    January 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GatorALLin

    My Theory is that this type of bird travels in large groups as it migrates. This would make it likely that a large group landed in the same field to eat. A farmer may have recently put out fertilizer pellets and were though to be food. I hope they can inspect the birds for possible poisoning and update the world on this tragedy. I guess they could also have a mite or sickness from another source (bad water...where the fish were..?).

    January 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Robert Martinez

    They probably were exposed to the raunchy videos shown on our aircraft carriers.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nard Dawg

    Temperature shock? Is it possible that it got too cold and then warmed suddenly or the other way around?

    January 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • BW

      I live 20 miles from there. It's not uncommon for our weather to change that way. This time of year it's an everyday event around here. Those birds are used to that. We have a saying around here cause our weather changes drastically so much. "If you want to see the weather change check back in an hour. It changes that quick here. We have seen tornadoes and snow the same day the same place. It changes that quick. As far as the storms they claim could have caused it, they had already long since left the state and the fireworks?, they are shot off all the time at our football games which are only a few blocks away and it never bothered them before.

      January 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cheshire Cat

    All I can say is the Arkansas people know how to party on New Year's Eve! Happy 2011...WooHoo!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
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