Why Did 5,000 Birds Fall From the Sky? (UPDATED)

New Year's Day began with a grim discovery for the residents of Beebe, Ark: Overnight nearly 5,000 birds mysteriously died and fell from the sky, covering homes and yards.

Judging by the reports I've read and the photos I've seen, the dead fowl are mostly black birds. To my knowledge, no game birds or waterfowl have been affected, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) is investigating and will send samples to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission. No cause has been confirmed yet, but the AGFC has speculated that the birds were hit by lightning or high-altitude hail. It is unlikely the birds were poisoned, but they will be tested for toxins.

As bizarre as this incident sounds, it is not without precedent. According to an AGFC ornithologist, incidents such as this have occurred a number of times around the globe.

In fact, in February 2009, 56 Canada geese fell or were thrown from the sky in Pennsylvania during a thunderstorm. Initially it was theorized that they were struck by lightning, but the prevailing thought at this point is that a severe downdraft forced the birds into the ground, killing them.

UPDATE (01/04/11, 10:30 a.m. EST): It happened again! Louisiana state biologists are trying to determine why an estimated 500 black birds and starlings seemingly died in unison yesterday. Officials are not yet able to speculate whether the incidents are related, but stressed that these are not unheard of events. According to The Advocate, there have been at least 16 incidents in the last 30 years in which at least 1,000 black birds have seemingly died in unison.

Meanwhile, back in Arkansas, necropsies have revealed that the dead birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots and led to their demise. The event may never be totally explained, but ornithologists now believe that celebratory New Year's Eve fireworks discombobulated the black birds (which have very poor eyesight) and caused them to crash into objects, the ground and each other. That may sound a little far fetched, but consider that the city of Beebe, Ark., only allows fireworks on Independence Day and New Year's Eve, so, as Police Chief Wayne Ballew explained to the Associated Press, "Everybody and their brother was shooting fireworks."

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7 Responses to Why Did 5,000 Birds Fall From the Sky? (UPDATED)

Troy wrote:
January 21, 2011

God shared with me what happened if your interested, reply.

KyleW wrote:
January 11, 2011

So far I think Shane has come up with the most plausible explanation.

Richard wrote:
January 10, 2011

The subzero jet stream has been known to dip downward several thousand feet to lower altitudes and catch high-flying geese in mid-flight and freeze them dead. I doubt blackbirds fly to 10,000 feet -- but, you never know.

John wrote:
January 10, 2011

My Bet would be they were poioned. Black bird damage grain and other crops and so do geese. There is a number of poions that cause blood clots.Birds or very weather wise and I belive they would have to be grounded to be killed by lighting. Airplaines get struck often in flight with no harm to the pasangers. I'll remain skeptical

Shane S wrote:
January 07, 2011

Maybe the alien Bud Light chicks are really coming to "Tramplicate"?

KyleW wrote:
January 04, 2011

Kevin, I understand your skepticism, but I don't think anyone is saying "lightning or hail is definitely responsible." Fact is nobody can say for sure what happened. But according to the U.S. Geological Survey, there have been at least 16 incidents in the last 30 years in which 1,000 black birds have seemingly died all at once.

Kevin wrote:
January 03, 2011

Gotta say there is a very large difference between the precedent of 56 geese VS over 5000 blackbirds. That many in flight at once and all being effected by a lightning strike or hail would be astounding to say the least. I remain skeptical