Why Did 5,000 Birds Fall From the Sky in Arkansas?

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Five thousand birds fell from the sky just as Arkansans were ringing in the New Year--and so far, no one is exactly sure why. The little avian casualties all happened in a one-mile area of Beebe, a town of less than 5,000 about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. Officials have rounded up most of the bodies of the blackbirds and starlings, which will begin undergoing tiny autopsies Monday.

Workers are going door-to-door to collect the last fallen feathery friends stranded on rooftops and in backyards, CNN reports.

  • Maybe It Was Fireworks, CNN's Lexie Clinton offers. Officials say the birds could have been literally scared to death by New Year's Eve fireworks. But one local ranger told CNN he'd never seen so many scared so badly at once.
  • Or Weather, ornithologist Karen Rowe told CNN. Sometimes a flock can be taken out by a lightning strike, or hail at high altitudes. Since there were no deaths at a local roost, something had to have happened to them mid-air.
  • Or Noxious Fumes, biologist Reese Halter told MSNBC, as noted by New York's Mike Vilensky. "Flocks do come down, whether from noxious fumes or cold weather... There's death everywhere."
  • Or a Sonic Boom, "conspiracy theorists" say, according to MSNBC. In less science-y times, the mysterious events were thought to be the work of evil spirits. In modern times, people blame the military. Likewise, commenter eLwood writes on the Arkansas Times' blog, "I'm thinking sub-sonic boom the military has been testing and denying they have such a weapon. A West Coast friend who is researching the Mena Airport-Secret Alien base story says it could have been chemical warfare...a super fast dispersal of chemicals that causes sudden freezes. When anything flies through it instant freezing. Thaw can occur during the fall. But he's kinda wacky sometimes."
  • Probably The Apocalypse, Gawker's Max Read writes. Noting that 100,000 fish died days earlier in the Arkansas River 125 miles from the dead bird zone, Read writes, "So if anyone is wondering where, exactly, Jesus is going to show up: It's Arkansas."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.