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. slk

    anyont think about the arkansas Nuclear One plant????? lake,water,could account for both the fish and the birds.

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

      I live here. That plant is 1 1/2 hr. from where this happened but it is west of us but yes I have thought of that.

      January 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dcase

    Google: Holocause Revisionism! wake up robots!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Megan

    HP, Diane and Kevin, Thank you for getting to more of the truth on this. Glad to see there are some people with reason and sense who comment here. HP, I'd love to learn more about this similar issue that you mentioned happening in Africa. Do you have any link that you could share that provides more info about that? Thank you.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    HAARP in Gakona – it would also explain the 100000 dead fish 125 miles away and the ARK Earthquakes.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Megan

    Who wants a lap dance?

    January 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chicken Little

    The sky is falling...The sky is falling...

    January 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • pezidol

      Oh, wait no....It's just birds...eww

      January 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cheshire Cat

    105,000 dead birds and fish...

    Kitty Galore Strikes Again!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ChrisC

    Thanks, but I already know about Holocaust revisionism. Although off topic, people should read more about it.

    January 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sylvester

    Tweety never did have a chance

    January 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ChrisC

    None of those posts were Me!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ChrisC

    Stop it!

    January 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tweety

    I taut I taw a puddy cat...

    January 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ChrisC


    January 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CGardner

    ASH – your comment made me laugh – but to answer your question NO!!! i would not say they deserved to die – i would never think to kill and animal just becuase it was bothering me (I LOVE ANIMALS) but i do believe someone did – our local news is now say that they have confirmed the death to be related to multiple blunt trauma -causing them to die in mid-air but this is just a preliminary test and the test that has been sebt off caould take a week to come back ???????

    January 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cheshire Cat

    So were any of this red-winged blackbirds able to get a tweet out on twitter before they went down? I'm willing to bet the FBI is checking into this...

    January 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
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