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. Margie B

    I heard that a hugh amount of fish in that area died as well

    January 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      125 miles away is hardly "in that area."

      January 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • hub

      closer thatn 125..try about 70

      January 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd H

      Considering that it only takes a bird somewhere between 2 to 5 hours to fly that distance... Depending on size.... I would say it is "in the area".

      January 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeeeah okay.

      "Hardly in that area" huh. Yeah, to someone like yourself who has probably never been out of his own town 125 miles might seem like a lot. In the world scale, 125 miles is quite close.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gianfranco

    do you want to know the reason?
    go and see the tv series " Flashforward"

    January 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smart Guy

      OMG i was thinking the exact same thing!!!

      January 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • flashforwardreply

      that's the first thing i thought of! (good show.. miss it!)

      January 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJ

      That is EXACTLY what I thought of! Good show, I miss it!

      January 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lacy J

      It is so what happened on FlashForward! How are we supposed to know what is gonna happen since they cancelled the series.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. daniel

    a bunch of fish and birds died. Possibly due two natural gas leaking from the earth due to companys drilling for the gas.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThisGuy

      Possibly due to your childish thought process due to smoking weed and commenting on stories like this due to...

      January 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norseman

      fix your grammer before you post

      January 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • da13ca23

      Where in the world did you get that information? From a comic book??

      January 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kermonk

    For further information on this topic see "Flash Forward"

    January 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hugh Jorgan

    The Government said it was weather balloons that caused them to drop out of the sky,
    when the Flux Capacitor malfunctioned and they never made it back to the future.
    Its obvious, the Gov. never lies!

    January 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nostradamus

    It's the start of the 2012 prophesy.

    I am the darkness
    Born out of light
    I am the force, the fire
    That burns here tonight

    Bringing the future
    To all mankind
    Guider of life, of death
    The sight for the blind

    Your future lies within my eyes
    What I predict will terrify
    I can't control what comes to be
    From the past to the present to eternity

    I am Nostradamus
    Do you believe?
    I am Nostradamus
    That I conceive

    Master of chaos
    Anger and rage
    I hold the key
    My presence will unlock the cage

    I am your witness
    The one who can tell
    Bearing the sword, the shield
    To your heaven from hell

    As I unfold the mystery
    I change the course of history
    With premonitions from the void
    Will you live, will you die
    Will your worlds collide?

    I am Nostradamus
    The hand of fate
    I am Nostradamus
    With love and hate

    Lost in this vortex
    The mystery begins
    Will you be victim
    Saved from your sins?

    Time is illusion
    Trapped in the skies
    Destiny's calling
    Hear from my eyes

    Many years ago a boy was born, a boy with a gift
    A gift that would be the envy of all mankind
    To see what no other could, great visions of the future

    Or would a curse be bestowed on the boy
    The boy whose name was Nostradamus?
    Damus, damus, damus, damus, damus
    I am Nostradamus
    Do not forsake
    I am Nostradamus
    Your life's at stake

    I am Nostradamus
    The lightning rod
    I am Nostradamus
    The voice of God

    Celestial comets
    Rain towards earth
    Alchemy's tempest
    Predicting your worth

    Pray for deliverance
    Escape if you can
    For I have borne witness
    To the purging of man.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jwhawthorne

      LOL WUT?

      January 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Freddy Phelps

      Judas Priest!!!

      January 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • g

      yes it is nearing the end...

      January 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • da13ca23

      Once again we have to listen to the rantings of a guy that died more than a thousand years ago. Why do people like you keep insisting the "end is nigh". Enough already.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gungistoker

      @Nostradamus, return to your hole in the ground please. Thank you. Move on everyone.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Donna P

    It's obvious! God struck down the birds to show His dislike of the U.S. State Department. Hilary sends out a Wiki-leaked cable instructing the U.S. cookie-pushers (diplomats) to spy on the UN, ticking off God. So in response, He killed the birds in Arkanasas. The hubby, Slick Willie, is from Arkansas, right?? What could be clearer??

    January 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nod

      Yea...And God sent you a private message to convey his train of thought? Lunacy!

      January 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • da13ca23

      Donna I hope you are being facicious .

      January 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*Awake

      Funny how the media has much power over all you Inside-The-Box minded people. They say jump, all of you say "how high".. search for truth and you will find it, don't let others decide for you. Its Sad seeing how you are letting them kill you little by little, everybody talks, gossips, and blogs but nobody takes action. You have to realize all the power as We The People have when we unite, and its time to wake up and react.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brent

    Red winged black birds are day flyers. In order for an airborne toxin to have taken them out, the birds would have dropped from sky in daytime or simply drop from their rooting spot. You Will almost never see red wing black birds flying past civil twilight (approx 20-25 min past sunset). The same is true with starlings.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      I fail to see how a red winged black bird could eat a drum fish.

      Don't think that setting off fireworks would stress birds out and kill in masses considering that it isn't the only time or location that fireworks have been set off in the world; yet no reports of flocks of birds dying around the world.

      Methane gas itself is not poisonous but can only kill if it displaces all of the oxygen. At bird flying elevation, any plume would have dispersed that it would not be possible. H2S is more likely. Anyone smell rotten eggs at the time?

      January 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rock

      Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost in the wetlands where the birds breed. Winter flocks can be congregations of several million birds, including other blackbird species and starlings. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night.
      Very unusual story.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. david

    signs for the End of days

    January 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Freddy Phelps

      In the end man would lie with man and spread a disease of the blood. The birds and all creatures of the earth will throw themselves to the earth. The dark ones from the desert will rage insaniity and ultimately eat themselves. The fire shall fall from the sky and the selling of woman and children will begin again. All predicted by nosterdamus and the bible REV 6:66

      January 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Eh. Good joke. Rev 6 goes to 17, buddy. Here's 6:5-6: And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand." "And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine".
      A bit off, aren't we? Unless it was sarcasm. If so- *clap clap*

      January 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. truus


    January 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • dmenace

      Yes! You hit the nail on the head! HAARP Weather Modification.

      January 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rosa Robinian

    Now, let me tell you something!

    January 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. anon

    Look up.. our government is poisoning us.. it's all over in our skies.. google pics and videos .. they are there it is not normal.. and if you can't believe your own eyes .. do you believe they would do this now.. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2315081.stm

    January 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Umm, only one species of bird died, and all in a small area. Don't be ridiculous.

      January 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • richajam

      Well what do the birds and the fish died have in common? maybe same level of tolerance for the same sonic frequency?
      Weird news in such a short period in the same area.

      January 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rosa Robinian

    Ah no!

    January 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Natalie

    What is up with Arkansas? OK couple of things: They have been having strange earthquakes, then the tornadoes, then the 5,000 dead birds, then the 1000s of dead fish?? I did some research and discovered that in 1851 the Arkansas Gazette wrote about their speculation of a volcano in south eastern logan county. Not sure if it's close to where all these problems are occurring? I will check. Ok so the issue with the birds/fish and earthquakes are all occurring near Little Rock. The supposed Volcano is speculated to be somewhere in Logan county. To read more about it go to: http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/arkansas/80715/1

    If there was a volcano, that could explain a lot! On the other hand, considering that is probably unlikely, it could be that Arkansas is getting ready to have a major earthquake and it could be affecting nature somehow. And, thirdly...the most likely scenario..... the birds could have been contanminated by the fish they were eating. The ironic thing is, why is it that one type of bird died? And why is it one type of fish?? Interesting.

    Here is another extreme thought: Could it be, that maybe.....there is a volcano is logan county leaking sulphur, sulphur flowing down into the river, killing certain types of fish, and the birds that eat this fish died as a result? WHO KNOWS, but it's something to think about.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Blackbirds do not eat fish. They eat seeds, grain and insects. And drum fish get very large (30-100 pounds).

      January 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      all the fish that died were the same kind to.

      January 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • fineart

      Hi Natalie; Good thoughts, but the birds seem to be all red wing black birds, and they don't eat fish. This species of birds live in marshy areas. It could be swamp gas that caused their deaths. I didn't know that these (RWBlkBirds) birds migrated at night or at all. Stay in contact.

      January 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. richajam

    Fish and Birds dying in the masses in so close of a time gap in a close regional area.
    Are there any earthquake zones near there? Any earthquages recorded in the near by vacinity? just maybe some preimptive 'sonic' event is causing this or toxic gas releases before an earthquake(days/weeks/months prior).
    Just speculation. =)
    Maybe its some secret testing by the military or terror groups... maybe it was UFO's like in the movies( ...for you conspiracy theorist out there..lol).
    Regardless- its something weird and needs looked into.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
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