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. Dallas

    Why would this be happening now? Think about it, these areas have been getting storms most of the year. So what makes it different? And as far as fireworks go Im pretty sure the birds ought to be use to them by now don’t you think. I mean after all people have been shooting them off for generations.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Professor West


    January 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul Stransky

    First, birds do not fly at night, bats fly at night. If you look at the picture, the birds are all over the place and in the middle of the road, so they did not fall surprised out of the tree, they would have to have been in flight.
    It would appear, that the birds were dumped there, allready dead. The question is, by who.

    January 5, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul Stransky

    I can't explain the birds being in flight at night, but the rest of it looks like a weapon test. Isolated targets isolated damage. The question is, who is testing a weapon, and what weapon is being tested.
    Again, I can't explain why birds would be flying at night, that part makes no sence.

    January 5, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Madelynn deason

    Ok well I live in lincoln parish and it is getting closer i am in jr. High so In science we come up with dio. For this well the internal bleeding we desided is from them falling most likley well if I wake up tomarrow and see dead birds I am gonna freak out

    January 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. anonymous

    Ok. Que the theme from the Twilight Zone.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ke$ha

    on 103.5 kiss fm i heard some guy say that some guy near by was playing a demo of that new kim kardashian song that sucked and they said thats why those birdies died

    January 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jon Q Pubic

    It was Obama. Early in the morning he took a flight from Hawaii to Arkansas. He wanted to treat the birds to rice because it was part of his new health care plan. Unfortunately it backfired. This plan backfired along with his cleaning up the waterways program. The river was a pretty nasty color so he dumped hundreds of gallons of bleach into the river. After all this just went all so wrong for him he felt that the birds in Louisiana knew too much so he went ahead and took care of them too.

    January 6, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Nick

    Honestly, what are the odds of 5000+ birds dropping dead before new years? All within that one mile radius? Fireworks were set off all over the world but yet only in that town they die? Lightning; wouldn't the birds have been burnt to a crisp? If you ask me I think the government is behind it and is not telling us what is really going on. Population controll diseases being tested? The fish the next day also died. I don't think it's all just by coincedence...

    January 6, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. duuh

    too many folks playing angry birds. Cant explain the fish though.

    January 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brianna

    Wow i can't belive that 5000 birds died.But......HOW?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    January 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dmann

    the birds are confused and the fish are trying to find warmer water as the climate keeps changing tru fact the end is near

    January 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Taylor Dorn

    It was Daniel Tosh. That fruit loop is into killing mass amounts of birds. It's true, he told me via a wedging message.

    January 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ricky field

    osama's into it!! i cud feel it........

    January 7, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. ryryp23

    For all of the people taking this thing SERIOUSLY (haha), all of these theories seem plausible. But my question is, why was this specific type of blackbird the only type affected? Why not other types of birds? Cuz that's what's making me lean towards God instead of a scientific explination. If someone has an answer for me I'd love to hear it.

    January 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
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