In the Case of Thousands of Dead Birds, a Culprit?

Birds likely crashed after flying low to avoid fireworks, say investigators
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2011 4:44 AM CST
Updated Jan 4, 2011 5:52 AM CST

(Newser) – Investigators probing the mysterious death of thousands of birds in a small Arkansas town believe New Year's Eve fireworks were likely the cause. Residents of Beebe say loud explosions were heard shortly before more than 3,000 blackbirds began falling from the sky, the BBC reports. The few that survived the fall were seen stumbling around. "The blackbirds were flying at rooftop level instead of treetop level" to avoid explosions above, and probably ended up crashing into objects and each other, says an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says.

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"Blackbirds have poor eyesight, and they started colliding with things." Lab reports have ruled out poisoning, although officials say they haven't declared the case completely solved ... which may be a good thing, since a Cornell ornithologist says the culprit may have been bad weather. "This is a well-known phenomenon," he explained. The birds, which can roost in groups as big as 20,000 at night, could have gotten "swept up in a storm" and forced into a "washing-machine type thunderstorm." If their feathers get overly waterlogged, they can quickly die of exposure, he notes. (But as for those 100,000 dead fish...)

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