“Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Raining From the Sky . . .”

Alfred Hitchcock's ~ The Birds
Image by prudencebrown121 via Flickr

This one’s pretty wierd, and I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t notice it until Derek and Sharon made mention of it yesterday: There has been a mysterious rash of bird deaths across the United States and parts of Europe. At first, the deaths wer blamed on the New Years’ celebratory fireworks, but as the strange phenomenon has continued, that explanation starts to strain credibility.

From IBN:

The mysterious incident of birds falling from the sky has gone beyond United States now. Dozens of jackdaws were found dead in Sweden after several cases in Kentucky and Louisiana.
Five of the dead jackdaws found in the city of Falkoping were being tested.

Earlier about 450 black birds and starlings were found dead in Louisiana – after apparently falling dead from the sky.

The Louisiana bird die-off came just a few days after 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead in neighbouring Arkansas.

The birds don’t seem to be dropping randomly, but in concentrated areas. For example, the 5000 birds that died in Arkansas all died withing a two kilometer area. Just to make things even more fun, the Daily Telegraph reports massive fish die-offs just 200 km (125 mi) away from the fallen birds:

An estimated 100,000 fish have died in the northwest of Arkansas, the same state where up to 5000 dead birds recently fell from the sky. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said it suspected disease was to blame for the death of the drum fish, which floated in the water and lined the banks of a 30 kilometre stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, about 200km northwest of Little Rock, CNN reported on Sunday. . . .


The deaths affected only one species of fish, which would seem to rule out a pollutant, since you would expect pollution of some sort to affect all of the fish more or less evenly. It would also eliminate speculations that the bird flu is at fault, since not only would a virus not kill 5000 birds in one small area all at once, but would not very likely hop species over to something with gills instead of lungs. Furthermore, it makes the proposition that the bird deaths were caused by some kind of aerial shockwave (whether from a storm, fireworks, or other weapon) pretty dicey since that also would not be very likely to discriminate between species of fish. It’s possible that the two are unrelated, but that’s a heck of a coincidence.

The Christian Science Monitor has one of the better theories for the Arkansas deaths that I’ve seen:

More likely, says Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, is that the Arkansas birds were targeted by a farmer fed up with them feeding on his cattle grain. No licenses are needed to kill blackbirds and starlings, and poisoning is a common method of controlling large, noisy flocks.

Said farmer undoubtedly then traveled three hours to his favorite fishing spot and poisoned the fish because they refused to bite.

Joking aside, I’m actually pretty sure that there is a physical cause that we’ll be able to track down. If the cause turns out to be something relatively simple and normal, the real story will be to find out what else is going on this last week that this bit of strangeness is distracting us from.

Quick Addendum:  A Google map showing the locations of the various mysterious animal deaths that have lately taken place around the world.  Enjoy.



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