The quiet town of Beebe, Arkansas, woke up on Saturday, January 1, 2011, to find thousands of dead red-winged blackbirds on the ground. The bird corpses stretched for miles, yet an aerial survey showed that no other dead birds were found outside this specific area. “I thought the mayor was messing with me when he called me,” a town street supervisor said. “He got me up at 4’oclock in the morning and told me we had birds falling out of the sky.” Estimates have put the number of dead birds at between 4,000 and 5,000. Wow, that’s nuts. But surely there must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this phenomenon, right?
Um, no, actually. Nobody has any idea why or how this happened. There are some theories, though. Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said she thought the birds could have been killed by lightning or a high-altitude hail storm. “Conspiracy theorists” suspect a “sonic boom” is to blame, according to MSNBC. Some officials noted that large New Year’s Eve fireworks may have played a role. And though biologists believe it’s unrelated, an estimated 100,000 dead drum fish, believed to be diseased, also lined the banks of a twenty-mile stretch of the Arkansas River on Saturday, 125 miles west of of Beebe. In any case, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has collected some of the birds for testing, to try to determine how they died. But on MSNBC today, conservation biologist Reese Halter wasn’t all that freaked out: “Flocks do come down, whether from noxious fumes or cold weather,” he said. “There’s death everywhere.” Oh, okay. Happy New Year, Arkansas.