Nick Neely at Audubon:
On New Year’s Eve, sometime after 11 p.m., several thousand red-winged blackbirds dropped lifelessly from the darkness onto suburban lawns, roofs, and roads in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas. “I thought the mayor was messing with me when he called me,” Milton McCullar, Beebe Street Dept. Supervisor, said to the local TV station the next day with a (nervous?) grin. “He got me up at four o’clock in the morning and told me we had birds falling out of the sky.” “When you first get the call, you think it’s a New Year’s joke,” said the mayor, Mike Robertson, himself. “But it wasn’t a joke.” News outlets quickly picked up the story, and today, it has twittered about. There are no conclusions yet as to why the birds perished—a hailstorm, perhaps, or even stress from nearby fireworks—and no one seems to have much to say about the incident, but for, look here, at this strange, ominous (and yes, Hitchcockian) thing.
Michael Marshall at The New Scientist:
Most such rains of animals are probably caused by waterspouts: tornadoes that move over water. Waterspouts can suck up soil and small animals in large quantities, and dump them many miles away after they dissipate. This explains why the animals most commonly reported as falling are fish and frogs, which of course live in and around water.
The blackbirds aren’t the only mystery animals in Arkansas. 100,000 fish have died in a river 125 miles from Beebe. It’s not clear what killed them but disease may be to blame. There’s nothing to suggest the two events are linked.
Besides animals, other peculiar things have fallen from the sky over the years. Scientists have long struggled to understand the “red rain” that fell in Kerala, India, in 2001. The colour has been attributed to algae, but a few researchers think the microbes in question came from space.
Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:
When thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky on New Year’s Eve in Beebe, Arkansas, it seemed like God was angry at the Natural State, especially considering the additional 100,000 dead fish in a nearby river. “I’m not drunk and I’m not on drugs,” said one local when he called the police department. “She said, ‘Oh, you’re calling about the birds.'” A handful of the fallen creatures were taken in for testing, but officials are now saying that loud noises, probably from fireworks, scared the birds, causing them to slam into trees or houses and that the weather had nothing to do with it. Extraterrestrials are still suspected.Via the Wall Street Journal:
A witness reported that the birds, which roost in the area in large numbers and don’t see well at night, were scared by the noise and slammed into houses and trees, said Arkansas State Veterinarian George Badley. A study of several carcasses showed the birds died of internal bleeding.”We’re still checking for germs and poisons, but we believe it was just trauma,” said Dr. Badley.
The total dead is somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000, but that’s not counting the 500 red-winged blackbirds found in Louisiana, in what CNN calls a “seemingly separate incident.”
Clay Dillow at Popular Science:
Later yesterday, other sources were reporting that loud noise could have been behind the Arkansas incident. Necropsies performed yesterday showed the Arkansas birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots that went to their brains. It’s conceivable that loud noise (NYE fireworks?) could have startled a flock, causing them to rapidly change course and plunge headlong into buildings or tall trees, sustaining blunt traumas that led to their collective death.
Of course, none of this accounts for the 500 freshly dead birds in Louisiana. Those, of course, could be completely unrelated to the Arkansas birds (don’t be fooled by randomness, people). But we like a good conspiracy theory better. Besides, what about all those dead drum? Something smells fishy indeed, but who could possibly benefit from knocking off a bunch of birds in the American south? NASA? BP? Aliens? Our money is on Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who was never really afforded an opportunity to even the score with his avian nemeses.
Roz Zurko at The Examiner:
Many people are looking to the bible for verses conveying the warnings of the apocalypse with dead birds, but according to the website God Discussion, this does not seem to be mentioned. There are bible writings that are close, but not that convey the end of the world or harm coming to mankind affliated with dead birds.
2012 Prophecies have some people concerned after the dead birds fell from the sky, according to one commentator on Fox News live. According to the God Discussion website, the first searches for this story consisted mainly of the search words “dead birds.” Later, as the day went on, the search words turned to “dead birds” and “bible.” These dead birds have many people wondering today – what is the spiritual meaning in masses of dead birds falling from he sky?
One Connecticut housewife L. Kelly, admitted she did the same Internet search that many others did today, “dead birds” and “bible.” “It is just an eerie thing to happen, not something you ever hear about Kelly said.” She too fell on many confusing claims, but nothing that states the bible has a quote about dead birds and the end of the world is coming.
Christopher Rosen at Moveline:
Point of truth: Here at Movieline HQ, we’re busy stocking up on batteries and canned goods in the wake of the mass bird and fish deaths that happened in Arkansas over the weekend. (Not to mention the flooding in Australia.) That said, not everyone has worked themselves up into a full blown lather of panic. Just ask born-again Christian Kirk Cameron: “I think it’s really kind of silly to kind of equate birds falling out of the sky with some kind of an end-times theory.” Wait, even Cameron is making sense? Maybe this really is the end of times.
Laura Conaway at MaddowBlog:
But take heart: Though this story seems strange and even apocalyptic, it’s not necessarily so. The Baton Rouge paper cites an official from the U.S. Geological Survey as saying that a thousand or more blackbirds have turned up dead some 16 times in the past 30 years.