New Years Eve saw the appearance of a very strange sight in the streets and fields around a small town in Arkansas. Amid the litter of revelry from the night before, city officials found that thousands of dead blackbirds had been found to have fallen from the sky around town, but no one knows why. What do you do when thousands of blackbirds mysteriously fall dead from the sky? Investigators are scrambling to discover if this is a new dangerous disease or if it will remain an unsolved mystery like another one in 2010.
In 2010 we first brought you coverage of a story of hundreds of starlings that fell out of the sky and into one woman’s garden over the course of only a few seconds. The woman came home that night to investigate and was horrified to find hundreds of the birds simply laying on the ground outside her house. The birds were so numerous she found it difficult to move into her house without nudging any of them. Fearing a potential disease outbreak, she phoned the authorities and an animal control official was dispatched to her house where several samples were collected and more than a few tests were made. The tests were the same in every case. The birds had not been poisoned, showed o signs of distress, and had simply died unexpectedly of blunt trauma while flying in midair. Of course no one saw anything that ran into the birds and apparently neither did the birds themselves. Some speculated that an invisible wall had sprung up and soon talk of a UFO was brought up. I remember contacting several people trying to get firsthand information about whether it could be a sudden hailstorm, thoroughly convinced I had solved the puzzle over the official explanation of just where these birds were coming from and why they were dying so suddenly out of nowhere.
Karen Rowe, a commission ornithologist for the city said that this sort of thing has happened elsewhere, but the statement is perhaps accidentally misleading as while it does happen occasionally elsewhere it is actually extremely rare. The whole reason this is news is because an ultra rare and very troubling thing has happened again. Of course there’s also the fact that Rowe has the all important job of ensuring panic doesn’t set in on the town it took place in.
Fortunately for us all this sort of thing did happen before without any noticeable consequence for the town it took place in. But what could be the explanation? And could this mass dying of birds have anything to do with the incident that happened in Julie Knight’s garden? With any luck this latest incident will prove to be just as harmless and isolated as the other.
The official explanation is still being explored, but several of those proposed to make the event seem more normal are also fairly unlikely. Included in these theories is one suggesting that the birds died as a result of sudden fireworks explosions resulting in trauma. If this were the case, then fireworks all over the world would be regularly causing mass heart attacks in birds resulting in thousands of deaths every year. Shortly thereafter the event would be occurring regularly at the fourth of July and New Years. Another suggestion was a sudden hailstorm. While I had proposed this in the Knight case, as this happened all over the city in the middle of winter it seems less likely that it could happen without evidence of the storm being left behind.
The evidence seems to suggest that all of these birds interacted with something that resulted in their deaths, but it didn’t affect anything else. As other birds didn’t seem affected by it, this suggests possibly a disease that deals exclusively with blackbirds or even more likely a fast acting toxin that the birds flew into while in a flock. As some started dying off they dispersed and eventually were also claimed by the toxin. If no toxins are discovered in the bodies, however, the mystery will only deepen. Perhaps they flew into a pocket where there was increased carbon dioxide. The trauma could have been caused by the fall as they returned to Earth.
Hopefully in due time this mystery will be solved.