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.

β€œSince 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. Patrick Mitton

    The stressfull event that dropped all these birds and then killed all the fish happened in Alaska. The event was caused by a janitor who accidently turned ON the worlds biggest antenna, THE HARPP ANTENNA makes perfect sence

    January 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. malcolmaaron

    Since the publication of this article 100,000 dead fish have been found in the same area, and thousands of birds have also fallen from the sky in Louisiana. If anyone believes a storm can cause birds to fall out of the sky and tens of thousands of fish to wash ashore is just stupid, unless it was a really special storm. Its possible that the birds could have been poisoned through the fish, but whether natural or man-made this isn't a good sign for Babylon.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mahhn

    To me, the main suspect is a gas pocket (pollution or natural) . This has happened previously in Texas a year or two ago. I would like to see the reports from independent research on what is in the lungs of the dead birds. Our upper atmosphere is very polluted, hence many nights the moon is more dirty looking that white on clear nights. It didn't used to be unless there was huge forest fires, even then the color was different.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jenna

    The only way for thousands of birds to die simultaneously in mid air would be if there was toxic gas present, that is a no brainer.

    All other theories do not make sense, and for sure everyone allegedly investigating this matter already knows this.

    January 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. robert

    If I were a betting man, I would say these birds from Arkansas are imbred, the family tree don't fork, and they didn't fall far from the trunk. How's that for scientific?

    January 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jenna

    The only way for thousands of birds to die simultaneously while in mid air would be if there was toxic gas present, there is no other explanation.

    January 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Birds&FishDead

    Here are a few posts.. Check them out, before you make a decision. Birds & Fish in AR dead... Check this out!! Fireworks πŸ™ Never the 4th fireworks would be banned.. Cold water πŸ™ Water is not even frozen, water temps probably in 50's. High level hail.. Na.. πŸ™ Red winged black birds don't migrate or fly high. The low level winds were out of the north and north west on Jan. 1 though. Higher level winds would be traveling west to east.
    Massive bird deaths likely caused by loud noises – USATODAY.com
    http://www.usatoday.com http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110104/us_ac/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k679FjX8-PI

    January 4, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bigdphd


    Your argument is completely flawed. If the poles shifted, birds might change direction from north to south thinking that the poles switched (and now head to the south pole instead of the north). But, they would not start flying straight up in the air. Birds aren't generally observed in the stratosphere, except on a few rare occasions.

    January 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gjk

    Sooo r the birds ok???

    January 4, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gjk


    January 4, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Anne

    electromagnetic impulse

    January 5, 2011 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. mikey

    They were black birds. no white ones??

    January 5, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. soothsayer

    They claim it may have been due to the rough weather at the time, but also people were setting off fireworks, and they say the birds may have been scared by the loud noises, then ran into buildings, or even had been struck by lightning. To me this does not explain how 5,000 birds could just drop dead. For the fish on the other hand, they say was caused possibly by the super cold temperatures lately or even some disease or virus of some kind. Over 100,000 fish died and washed up on the river banks. Honestly, I think they have no idea what caused this to happen. A few days later in Louisiana, the same thing happened to the birds there too. And also, nearly 100 tons of dead fish, consisting mostly of sardines, hit the beaches of Paranagua, Brazil, on Sunday, the same day as the birds in Arkansas.

    They claim that none of these are related at all, which is foolish to assume. I think I know what has happened here. You all know that the sun is soon entering its solar maximum that cycles every 11 years. The sun is 10 years into this cycle, which means it's almost to the peak. So, we should be seeing a lot more activity coming from the sun, and we are. It is possible that this heightened state is affecting animals that use the Geo-Magnetic field on Earth to help them navigate and also migrate. Birds, fish, whales, and bees all have this internal compass. I think the recent solar activity is throwing off this compass causing the birds to basically go blind and run into things, in turn, killing them. I am not sure about the fish however. Something else might be killing them, but what are the chances these are not related. Why hasn't the media even suggested the sun as a possible cause.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tech

    im very scared to see where we are headed as a species... were toying with things were not meant to understand just yet

    January 5, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Amanda

    It is more than just one place than Beebee. It is happening all over the world. Thousands of dead fish and birds. Some are thinking it is a strain of bird flu. Other places these strange occurances are happening are: Arkansas River, Louisiana, New Zealand, Manitoba, Cananda, Kentuckey, Maryland where 2 million fish have been reported dead in the Chesepeake Bay, Brazil where 100 ton of dead fish have washed up shore, South Kore,a Chile where thousands of dead birds havefallen from sky, http://www.offgridsurvival has some of this information.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
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