Thousands of dead birds rained down from the sky in Arkansas and Louisiana recently. TBD’s John Metcalfe sat down with zoologist Gary Graves from the bird division of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to discuss some of the theories careening around the internet. UFOs? Violent weather events? Firework-induced panic and injuries? Graves weighed in on these theories and more.
A Bloomberg report explains that the most likely culprit in the Arkansas case were fireworks that were shot up minutes before the birds died.
Although speculation has run high that the recent fish deaths in Arkansas are somehow related to the bird deaths, this seems unlikely.
The birds were the second mass wildlife death in Arkansas in recent days. Last week, about 83,000 dead and dying drum fish washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, about 100 miles west of Beebe. Wildlife officials say the fish deaths are not related to the dead birds, and that because mainly one species of fish was affected, it is likely they were stricken by an illness. Full test results could take up to a month.
As for a connection between the deaths of birds in two states on two different days, a bird conservation expert for the Audubon Society weighed in for ABC news:
While the deaths seem startling, a bird expert said these types of birds tend to roost at night in huge numbers, and a disturbance can easily cause some to be disoriented and collide with buildings or trees.
“It’s not surprising if it’s one or two events like this,” said Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation, Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Flyway, National Audubon Society. “These things happen.”
Ornithologists have been busy reminding the public that blackbirds roost together in massive numbers. According to the Cornell University Ornithologists, the birds can roost in flocks that number in the millions. A few thousand birds out of a flock that size is less apocalyptic sounding than early news reports made the event seem.
That’s not to say that the case is closed. Scientists continue to study the incidents and nothing has been ruled out yet (except probably the UFO stuff), so we’ll have follow-up on the story as it evolves.