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Amanda Galiano

Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Plus) Fall From the sky - Blackbird Deaths in Arkansas

By January 3, 2011

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Nobody has any real answers yet, but there are a few facts in the mystery.  I think the two events are unconnected, but most media outlets are reported them together.   Some commentators are even speculating that some sort of apocalyptic disaster is occurring in Arkansas or some sort of unexplained sonic weapon being tested.

The Internet crowd is speculating everything from HAARP to chemtrails to alien attacks. Some point out that the birds fell at 11:11 1-1-11.  That's got to be important.  End of times?  Many are invoking the book of Revelations.  It's also pointed out that there was an earthquake "in the area" recently.

I'll put the conspiracy theories aside for the moment, and tell you some facts, as reported by Arkansas Game and Fish.

One hundred-thousand drumfish were found dead in Northwest Arkansas.   They were found along a 20-mile stretch between the Ozark Dam and Highway 109 Bridge in Franklin County.  Some of the fish were still alive, but were visably sick when they were found.  They have been taken to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for testing.  It's believed some sort of disease or process caused this occurrence.  It's not believed to be a pollutant because not all fish were affected.  Drumfish are bottom feeders, but not all bottom feeding fish were affected.  However, reports stating it was just drumfish are incorrect.  Game and fish reports it was 99% drumfish.

Massive fish deaths are rare, but not unheard of.  This event didn't get much media attention until the New Year brought a Hitchcockesque scene in Beebe.   Thousands of blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe on New Year's eve.  Reports saying it was just blackbirds are incorrect.  It was mostly blackbirds, with a few other small birds also being affected.  Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived.

The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city. AGFC wildlife officer Robby King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds. "Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky," King said in a press release. King collected about 65 dead birds that will be sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

Blackbirds are a nuisance bird in Beebe, so it's not rare to see thousands in one spot.  The USDA has tried to move the birds in the past, partly to keep disease from being spread.  AGFC ornithologist Karen Rowe said that strange events similar to this one have occurred a number of times across the globe. "Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail," Rowe said in a press release.

There are reports of dead blackbirds from other states: Kentucky and Louisiana.  Those are real reports, but not as many birds died.  Weird, huh?  Maybe not so weird.  These incidences (as well as the fish) are much smaller events and more normal occurrences.  They probably wouldn't have gained national news if it weren't for the impressive Arkansas blackbird deaths.

Here's an excellent article with more information.


January 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm
(1) hodak says:

As the sky is full of blackbirds and some people got sick of it they most likely they have put out some good tasting poison and the birds liked it till they dropped dead. If this has worked then this is a good idea to clean up the majority of these robbers that eat all farmers crops. a good deed well done.

January 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm
(2) justcurious says:

What is AGFC ????

January 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm
(3) Amanda says:

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

January 5, 2011 at 11:24 am
(4) bella riley says:

Has anyone asked the weather service if there was a report of high altitude hail or lightning on that date? Do birds usually attempt to fly through it?

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