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. 0hBrother

    Isn't it obvious? Every time someone plays Angry Birds on their iPhone or other device where do they think those birds come from?

    January 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • richajam

      Whoooa!... its true... a THOUGHT IS A DEED. Everyone please uninstall your screen crack app at once!!!

      January 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Turd Ferguson

    Huh? What? Huh? Who? What?

    January 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Only sheep need a shepherd

      Ha-ha! Yeah, I found this backstage, an over-sized hat. It's funny. It's funny because it's ah, bigger than, ah.. [ clears throat ] ..you know, a normal hat.

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

      Yeah, that's right. Turd Ferguson. It's a funny name.

      January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eric of Reseda

    New Years fireworks in the area the birds dropped. But no one wants to address this fact because it threatens putting the kabosh on New Years fireworks. But pet owners ROUTINELY see their pets on July 4th and New Years freak out, many so stressed they vomit, or worse. Sending large fireworks into the sky from multiple locations in a community surrounds these birds with explosions and heat and powerful sound waves, etc. I think these birds were sent into major stress

    January 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ant

    not just birds, but fish also. definitely some sort of govt testing.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    This happens in Arkansas every year for some odd reason it just so happens that CNN was late once again. I can see their next headline now " President Lincoln has been assassinated ".

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

      I have family in Arkansas and this is strange to them. Can you provide a link to the previously happening?

      January 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ethan


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

      you know, i'm beginning to think that all these "loony religious fanatics" are actually athiets in disguise

      January 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      LOL...Not sure if you were trying to be funny or not. But thats just what the drunk guy kept saying in the movie "BIRDS".

      January 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • da13ca23

      Thats typical of "god". Kill a bunch of innocent birds so he/she/it can make a point!

      January 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • toxictown

      Why doesn't god just text us?

      January 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. javelin007

    As soon as i heard this I thought of chemtrails as well.. and yes they are real!!.. and of course if most people dont think that they even exist..then how would they know what kind of toxolgy test to run.. you have to know what your looking for..but if most people dont even acknowledge chemtrail are real... there in lies the perpetuating deception...the black government and the illuminati arent the real "enlightened ones".. its the people who know the truth!! so dont believe the hype... its a much bigger picture than most people could even imagine!!

    January 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • strangeronfire


      thanks, i needed a laugh

      January 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • javelin007

      Strangeronfire.. for you know of what i speak.. for your laughter is a failed attempted at subterfuge... but the truth cant be surpresses!! 🙂 go to project camalot ..there yeah shall findeth the truth.... its just a bunch of small jigsaw pieces of tghe puzzle.. but after a while a big picture slowly starts to immerge!! the truthis really out there.. be prepared ..cause once you learn the truth ..you cant unlearn it.. so i hope youre ready...

      January 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Teresa*

    How could it have been weather that brought them down ...... That's insane! For one if it brought down all those animals around me ...... You have to think you and your family's health is in danger ........... its a big possibility ..... They way humans live is very toxic so it could have been caused by us ........ We can't keep disrespecting Mother earth sooner or later shes gonna strike back ........

    January 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Karim

    This happened on a few old episodes of Looney Tunes when a Frank Sinatra sounding Rooster would come to the farm and all the chickens would faint right after they exclaimed "Oh Frankie!!" Maybe these birds have a version of Frankie in their ranks..

    January 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Toni

    It’s a government experiment. Why just black birds? Why just drum? They are figuring out a way to extinguish a particular sector of the human race and so far the experimentation is on wildlife. 😉

    January 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • da13ca23

      Oh please, get a life

      January 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Perhaps

    A sign, possibly, that the end of the world is coming???

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

      i think it's funny that humans are so pre-occupied about their own ends...the end of humanity. ever hear of a self-fulfilling prophecy? eventually, our obsession will turn into reality, and it will have absolutely nothing to do with god.

      and why would he start with birds? to confuse and test us? go read another fairy tale and come up with better, more adult logic please. try hansel and gretel next time...at least it's entertaining.

      January 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ray

    I feel one possibility may be a 'Carbofuran' kill. Additionally, this might explain the massive fish kill some 125 miles away. Carbofuran is a pesticide. Toxipedia.org says the following: "... Carbofuran is soluble in water and is moderately persistent in the environment and it is highly toxic to birds, aquatic organisms, and other organisms including bees (EXTOXNET PIP). "Millions" bird kill-offs have been a result of granular carbofuran for the past 40 years and were the main driving force ..." Additionally, Wikipedia states the following, "...Carbofuran has been illegally used to intentionally poison wildlife in the US, Canada and Great Britain; poisoned wildlife have included coyotes, kites, golden eagles and buzzards. ..." However, maybe it is H7N3 Bird Flu, as reported by USA Today in the article, "15,000 Ark. hens test positive for bird-flu exposure" where the birds were "...buried at the farm to avoid spreading the disease...". The question is really, Will we ever be informed of the truth?

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

      Note: The bird flu incident was in 2008 FYI. ...and of course anything is pure speculation at this point ...and I certainly do not want to put out any information that I might later have to "Eat Crow" over, as that is a lot of crow to swallow. Just trying to provide a little humor over such a horrible incident. Seriously, I love birds and all wildlife: watergardeningpond.blogspot.com .

      January 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jessica

    very strange!!!!! i definatly want to know what happened thou.. and dont tell us lies!!! we deserve to know the truth!

    January 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. I Have a Dead Black bird that's been in my back yar for weeks

    Ok I was going to throw this bird out with the trash today but I forgot now after hearing this story I'm scared to get near it.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    Could be that BP lied about the Corexit dispersing within 30 days or the lie about how much oil was released. Or the lie from BP that the waters are safe. We did check all the wildlife but did we check to see how this effects the insects, you know the ones that fish and birds eat.

    Or the Fracting from Halliburton could explain alot. Fracting for oil sounds stupid when you consider what chemicals they are using and when you make the crust of the earth less stable lots of bad things will happen including the release of some very toxic gases.

    Oh wait it was probably the fireworks they were letting off before midnight because there are so many before midnight.
    No wait it was probably the TStorms that rolled past hours before this happening.
    Maybe it was just all those youngins playing their heavy metal music.

    January 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
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