The central Arkansas community of Beebe didn't quite have a cheery New Year's Eve. The community rang in New Year on a rather sombre note when it rained dead birds.
Initial estimates of the dead birds rose quickly from the 1000 presumed to 4000. Starting around 11:30 p.m, offices of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began getting reports of dead black birds falling from the sky, covering an area of 1.5-square-mile.
Initially violent weather, especially hail was thought to be a cause, since hail has been known to knock the birds out of the sky. The falling carcasses made even driving difficult. As residents have said, "they were all over the place".
And that's not all. In a separate incident, 100,000 drum fish was found dead along a 10-mile stretch of the Arkansas River. Experts say this has no relation to the death of the birds.
Trauma not poison
Meanwhile preliminary autopsy reports have started coming in. And they have only added to the mystery. 17 of the birds when examined seem to point that that the deaths occurred in midair, possibly due to collision, and because of blunt trauma to their organs. Empty stomachs rule out mass scale poisoning.
Experts have claimed that they could have been startled by something while flying and since red-winged blackbirds fly in groups they could have struck against each other. In a report, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has said, "The trauma was primarily in breast tissue, with blood clots in the body cavity and internal bleeding. All major organs were normal and the birds appeared to be healthy. Gizzards and stomachs of the birds were empty."
Putting to rest fears of disease, the report has made clear that, "Further tests will be done to rule out other causes, but the birds suffered from acute physical trauma leading to internal hemorrhage and death. There was no sign of any chronic or infectious disease." The city hired the U.S. Environmental Services to start the cleanup and disposal of the dead birds with officials going from door-to-door to pick up the birds still lying around.
Image © Brandon Seidel