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5,000 Dead Birds Fall From the Sky: Let’s Go With the Simplest Explanation

By Heather Turgeon |

arkansas dead birds fall from the sky

Birds fall from the sky

As you’ve been hearing for the last few days, it rained birds on New Year’s Eve, when 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky over a small town near Little Rock, Ark.

An hour before midnight, the birds started hitting the ground, landing on roofs, lawns, and roads around the town, all at once — no doubt terrifying for the witnesses and more than a little unsettling for those of us reading and watching the coverage.

Meanwhile, in the western part of the state, 85,000 fish died as well, and 500 dead birds were found in Louisiana. Mysteries of nature, conspiracy theories and, as Carolyn points, out end of days fascinations abound.

A member of the City Council told The New York Times, “There’s lots of theories running around. I have no idea. I just don’t have a clue.”

Granted, she’s probably a little shell shocked from the whole event, but the truth is there aren’t really multiple theories, and there’s no reason to draw a connection among all the no doubt bizarre nature happenings.

Here’s what scientists are saying, and why we don’t like to hear them:

Lab results reveal that the birds probably died from “acute physical trauma.” Ornithology experts, university scientists, and conservation officials say that all signs point to the fact that something startled the birds (like New Year’s Eve fireworks), and they took off flying, which they aren’t equipped to do at night. Massive panic, stress, and collisions into each other, chimneys, and trees ensued.

The 85,000 fish dying is almost certainly unrelated, by all accounts.

But the mystery of the events is still alluring to us, and I think that’s because when something unsettling or strange happens, our brains start to make connections where there are none, and look for evidence to support our more far-fetched, less reality-based conclusions — ignoring the simple, straightforward explanations.

That’s why another 500 dead birds in Louisiana might tomorrow be followed up with a finding of 300 dead butterflies, or a squirrel plague striking somewhere else in the south. Now that our red flags are up, we’re on the look out for other strangeness to occur — strangeness that would have otherwise flown under our radar.

I know I stray far from the evidence as a parent sometimes too — my son is extra tender one day and I’m likely to start coming up with all kinds of worrisome theories in my head that have nothing to do with the facts in front of me. Something wrong at preschool, he’s mad at me, too much chaos in the house — we should change something.

The truth is, he’s probably just having his little feelings, likely amped up by tiredness or hunger. End of story.

The probable explanation doesn’t conjure up half as much worry. So as a parent, I think I’ll be a little more conscious of not overreacting to life’s daily ups and downs.

And unless a nature expert really gives me reason to think otherwise, I’ll stick to the conclusion that the events of the last few days are astoundingly coincidental, rare, sad, and completely unconnected.

Image: flickr

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About Heather Turgeon

heatherturgeon

Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “5,000 Dead Birds Fall From the Sky: Let’s Go With the Simplest Explanation

  1. carolyncastiglia says:

    “Now that our red flags are up, we’re on the look out for other strangeness to occur — strangeness that would have otherwise flew under our radar.” That’s so applicable to so many scenarios. My sister once said, “You know how once you buy a red car, all you notice are red cars? That’s what it’s like when you meet a bad guy.” So true!

  2. Matthew Tanner says:

    Sometimes we see a pattern where there IS one.

  3. John Cave Osborne says:

    so good, heather. really liked this a lot.

  4. heatherturgeon says:

    exactly carolyn! it’s hard to remember how biased we are about new information. birds, cars, bad guys…

  5. Bobby says:

    Moth man prophecies .

  6. keujah estacado says:

    Yeah well i think that putting 5000 dead birds to 85 000 fishes and 500 others to coincidental facts defies imagination- just a bit. Not saying that its the end of days, just that something is OBVIOUSLY wrong.
    PS; i laughed about y2k from 1998 til 2000 and i dont think that something crazy big is going to happen in 2012. But to say that almost 100 000 animals died in less than 3days might just be coincidences…

  7. DaltonTam says:

    I do agree that the scientists have a good point about what is happening with the birds. I am a sportsman of Louisiana and I love to duck hunt and bass fish especially. The connections that I can put together are that the birds in Arkansas and the birds in Louisiana are of the same exact species. Not only black birds but “Red” winged black birds. Now, as a duck hunter I understand that the birds were also both found in what we call the Mississippi flyway which means they could have all came from the same flock. Now as a bass fisherman I know that the one bird species that I see almost every fishing trip near the water is not black birds but “Red” winged black birds. They like to reside close to the water and feed on insects and berries. Now…. if there were thousands of dead fish lying ashore there would have been many insects in this area due to decomposition. My theory is that the birds died from the same disease that the fish died from. Birds are known to fly hundreds of miles everyday and the largest flyway for migratory birds in the United States is the Mississippi Fly way.

  8. kalayah says:

    diz stuff iz crazii and nasty,i wudnt want birds fallin on miii houz and i think the scientists are right so u should believe them.but bye,thankxz for the information/data

  9. Arlyn says:

    DaltonTam, I agree and thought the same thing. Perhaps there’s some sort of insect virus popping up. Why don’t the scientists investigate that?

  10. Kimberly says:

    I think that there is something terribly wrong with this whole deal! I believe that the public is always being kept from the truth of whatever craziness is going on in the world. I am a medical professional and the diagnosis given is kind of rediculous because there is no supporting data, if there is something going on we all have a right to know. The people believe to much of what they are told and we should all ask questions! The public should demand answers.

  11. LogicalMama says:

    Germ warefare testing.

  12. Alec says:

    uhm its the end of days for sure, it says it in the bible and warns us of all the things that are happening with our weather, animals, what people are doing and how families being broken, and so on and so on. if u dont believe it, then read the bible, and if u dont believe in god, how could some bible be right about so many things.

  13. RIZZO says:

    THAT WAS PUT REAL NICE LADY, REALLY IT WAS YOU SHOULD WRITE A MOVIE. YOU KNOW WHO YOU REMIND ME OF SCULLEY ON THE XFILES SPEAK THE SCIENCE AND NOT EVEN THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE. SOMETHING SCARED THOSE BIRDS BUT FIREWORKS SMDH AFTER YEARS FIREWORKS SUDDENLY KILLED 5000 BIRDS, ANOTHER 500 IN LOUISIANIA, AND ANOTHER 100 000 000 DEAD FISH. EITHER YOUR SCARED OF THE TRUTH CAUSE NO ONE WANTS THE WORLD TO END OR, VIRUSES SPREAD, BUT HEY JUST STICK TO THE THEORY THEY HIT A BUILDING 5000 OF THEM AND THE FISH,THEY DIED FROM POLLUTION OR A OIL SPILL,I JUST DONT UNDERSTAND. HOW PEOPLE SOME NOT ALL DONT THINK THEY CAME FROM SOMEWHERE. AND DONT TELL ME THE HUMAN CELL FIRST APPEARED IN THE OCEAN, WHY AINT MORE IF SO, AND WHY DO PEOPLE DENY IT EVERYTHING HAS A BEGINNING, AND THIS EARTH WAS HERE BILLIONS OF YEARS PRIOR TO OUR ARRIVAL. WHO KNOWS WHAT THE HELL TO THINK WHERE DID THE EARTH COME FROM AND THE UNIVERSE IT CAME FROM SOMEWHERE, BUT WHERE ALL BUY LINE UP, BUY CHANCE, HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE SOMEONE MADE ALL OF US. ALL OF THIS IM TALKING ABOUT LIFE NOT MARS, OR VENUS ,CAUSE I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THAT BUT WE WERE GIVEN LIFE AND IF THE HOUR IS AT HAND THEN SO BE IT. EVERYTHING ENDS THE SUN WILL BURN OUT IN 26 BILLION YEARS SO EVERYTHING ENDS. EVERYTHING BUT WHERE DID IT COME FROM. ASK YOURSELF THAT. CAUSE NO ONE KNOWS NOT EVEN SCIENTISTS. REAL ONES THEY DON’T KNOW AND NEVER WILL WE WOULD LIKE TO BUT, MAN CANT KNOW EVERYTHING EVEN THOUGH WE WANT TO WE CANT. BUT OTHER THEN THAT YOU WROTE A GREAT THEORY A PREDICTABLE ONE BUT A THEORY NONETHELESS.

  14. Drew says:

    The Author’s ‘Simplest Explanation Theory’ Is…

    …SUPER Naive At Best!

    Author Wrote:

    “Massive panic, stress, and collisions into
    each other, chimneys, and trees ensued.”

    How Silly!!!

    It’s VERY Immature to Think That Birds Would…

    1. Collide With Each Other… NEVER!

    2. Fly In To Chimneys… HOW DUMB!

    3. Hit Tress… PLAIN STUPID!

    Dead Birds Found ALL Over The OPEN Streets
    And OPEN Yards… Not Under Trees or Below
    Chimneys!

    BUY A VOWEL And GET A CLUE!

    The 5,000 Birds In Arkansas… 500 In Louisiana…
    And The 100,000 Dead Fish ARE ALL CONNECTED!

    One Thing Is Causing It…

    And It’s Not Nature!

    IT’S SECRET OPS!!!

    And of Course The Sheeple Believe What
    ‘Scientists’ Are Saying… And Go BACK
    To Sleep…

    Like Good Little Sheeple!!!

    One Day When Our OWN Government
    USES The Hi-Tech Population Control
    Methods It Been Testing On Animals…

    >>> ON YOU <<>> But Sadly… It will be TOO LATE!! <<<

    The Sheeple With Be Gone From America!

    **************************************************

    GOOGLE 'Dead Birds HAARP'
    AND 'Dead Birds Chemtrails' If
    YOU Want To Wake Up BEFORE
    It's Too Late!!!

    WATCH THIS VIDEO NOW… If You're Tired of Being A Sheeple!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Psdg3OAw_a8&feature=fvw

    It May WAKE YOU UP TODAY… Instead of When It's Too Late!!

  15. exnycgirl says:

    Coincidental? Arkansas, Maryland, Louisiana, and now Brazil? we as Americans are so unprepared. we are more interested in watching the biggest loser, jersey shore, and going on facebook, then reading and learning whats happening in our country with ALL these dead birds and fish. the goverment has the power to hide ALOT of things. why should 2011 be any different?

  16. Bob Dobalina says:

    Does the word COREXIT not come to anyones mind here???

  17. heatherturgeon says:

    Thanks for your feedback! Not surprisingly, all kinds of birds and fish death reports today. Unsettling and strange, yes. “Aflockalypse,” no.

    Apparently mass bird deaths are not that uncommon, with “about 500 million to 1 billion birds are killed every year and mass deaths have been noted about 16 times in the past 20 years”. And scientists still seem divided as to whether the initial deaths were triggered by panic after fireworks, or a weather system. But the Chesapeake Bay fish might have died from cold weather stress.

  18. Sarah Bear says:

    To believe this is not connected is ludacris. Same type of naivete that the oil is gone. So many are asleep or supporting fear’s reason by hiding behind faith, or believing agencies, or we are just “creating patterns.” What does it take for eyes to open…to even surmise this “coincidence.” ?
    Google Fema Coffins. Go from there. Even if it has nothing to do with *all *these *deaths, ponder what that is about.

  19. ren1999 says:

    I am a psychic and I have concluded that the fish, bird, bat and butterfly deaths around the globe are a result of freezing temperatures.

    ..actually, it doesn’t take a psychic to figure out that freezing temperatures and susceptible to freezing temperature species equals mass death. Last Summer was the hottest Summer in history. Perhaps this Winter will be the coldest at certain times.

  20. marc says:

    conspiracy theories aside. birds do fly into things including chimneys and into my window about once a season. when they fly the coop in a panic, ive actually witnessed them flying into each other and it creates even more chaos. in fact, there is a history of these things happening especially when there are lunar eclipses, solar eclipses and small shifts in the environment. a 1 degree shift in water temperature can make some of the oddest things happen as one species moves and several others have to adapt or die.

    heather makes a great point, the simplest explanation is usually correct. i blame mass instant media for this sudden interest. although uncommon these events happen and now, with 24 hr news someone is getting paid to connect these events and make you tune in, so your watching. normally, 500 dead fish would indeed be a side note that most people would pass right over.

    so its that or were being visited by aliens with invisible space ships that the birds have flown into ;) im going with the unconnected event theory myself.

  21. SpottedOwlStew says:

    Regardless of any other speculation,
    5,000 birds died simultaneously and
    dropped straight down, within a one
    mile radius. Virtually one species.
    I would be interviewing those who
    perform legal culling of these flocks.
    They have vast insight as to behavior
    when 5,000 are poisoned or sprayed.

    Birds are designed to travel forward.
    Broken beaks, necks and trauma to
    their breasts just might happen, when
    the earth stops their dead weight fall.
    So far, Zero factual information.
    From any credible source.

  22. bubba thorne says:

    This all happened at the time the Earth was at its closest point to the sun

  23. KEN says:

    100 tons of dead fish washing ashore in New Zealand, Brazil, and some other countries. Along with the amounts of birds randomly dying in Sweden and the countries I just mentioned. Plus the fish/bird deaths in the US and Canada. All in about 2 days?

    Call me crazy, but it seems a little too coincidential to me. Hmmm, maybe it has something to do with a certain spill everyone swept under the rug?

    COREXIT does indeed come to mind.

  24. Todd says:

    There were about 20 tornados that ripped through that part of the country on Dec 31. People were killed in Ark. and Missouri. A large cold front moved in on warm gulf air with about a 40 degree temperature change. The birds were reported to have been killed by acute physical trauma – like a tornado maybe? A drastic change in water temperature could also be responsible for a large fish kill or maybe it could be lightning striking the water several times. I bet many of these cases around the world can be attributed to weather.

  25. jerry says:

    Has everyone already forgotten about the oil spill in the Gulf or all the pollution companies around the world are pumping into our atmosphere? Let`s just blame it on the weather and the Democrats !

  26. tonya says:

    ow my goodness! shame on all of you! most of you want to blame the weather, well who is the only one that can change the weather? how could so many deaths not be conected? birds in this country and others! fish on the banks! please take a moment to ponder… And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. than he went on to create the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. than came man! well in the end of days God said to us that there will be signs for the faithful to follow! wouldnt it make sence to any one that the first made, first to go theory would be right. God is trying to see just how much we can trust him! just how much we have paid attition to his word over the years. these are signs! please i pray for all of you to find your place, dont be scared just be sorry, ask God to forgive and he always will! the end is near!! please repent!! my god save us all!! if you dont believe me see for your self! if the cattle and beasts and creeping things of the land start to die off just the same you can only emagion what is next! please pray! if we all pray we might show God there is faith left on this horrable planet!!!

  27. IrishCream says:

    Okay, Ken: you’re crazy!

    Ah, that felt good.

  28. CJ says:

    Dropping by via a link from “Parenting” website for some info on parenting and coincidentally find myself reading about 5,000 dead blackbirds, fish kills and the extreme randomness of life/death. Not being much for conspiracy theories I’ll go with Heather’s take on accepting the simplest explanations for strange events. Now, where are the blogs on parenting?

    Of course, I could be part of a secret governmental plot to randomly direct new grandparents to information about COREXIT?? You think?

  29. Marci says:

    I don’t know how closely timed the tornados and bird and fish deaths occured, but I would wonder that more birds don’t fall from the sky after tornadoes. The pictures we saw on the news in Canada of tornado devastation through those states left me gasping. Perhaps a tornado touched down on a stretch of river where such fish and redwing blackbirds were abiding and spun the birds up into its funnel.
    I once saw a news clip of how a tornado ripped up a barn and the piglets therein went flying high into the sky and came down a long way from home. Apparently the piglets never really grew after that. Shocked out of a few years of growth !
    Unless something more sinister bombed their pond, or unless their had been no sign of tornados for about 24 hours, I favour the tornado theory.

    Now as to birds falling from the sky in Sweden, that’s a long way from tornado alley. Hard to say, so far away. Some explosive force. Disease doesn’t decimate a flock in the sky.

    As to the various fish deaths recently reported, some explosion must be involved here too, underwater bomb test or submarine sonar.
    Summer of 2009, along the west coast of Vancouver Island, hundreds of 2 foot long humbolt and hundreds more of herring washed up on the beaches over about 3 days. They didn’t seem in any way diseased or battered. Just stunned to death.

  30. William Swain says:

    To those who are so quick to point out the bible as an explanation to these events, remember that the bible was written by men, not god. These people were not nearly as well informed about disease or environmental changes as we are now, so every event that they couldn’t explain was chalked up to god. Natural disasters – act of god. Plagues – act of god. Swarms of locusts – act of god. The entire basis of religion as a whole is to provide answers for those things that we can’t explain. Someday science will supercede religion, and we will all be better for it. Before you begin preaching “end of days” do some research and you will find that these mass kills are nothing new. Just because we can’t explain it at the moment doesn’t mean you need to stick your head into a hole in the ground and wait for armageddon.

  31. lorraine says:

    Science has done more destroying than saving this earth and mankind..pollution from chemicals, etc etc..man tries to put right with science what he has already harmed by his own misjudgment. Man has and will continue to destroy the earth God made as well as his own soul for daring to turn his back on his Creator and thinking he knows better how to rule the earth.

    So think about that. All sickness, misery and decay and breakdowns were ALL caused by man and his stupid folly to trust himself and his own greed instead of God. Thats why we need a saviour. Jesus is the saviour who can clean up your soul, for he paid the price for mankinds sin on the cross. Nobody can come to God on their own merit, only through Jesus can man be made new.

    There will NEVER be man-made peace on this earth. God himself will bring world peace at the appointed time, and a brand new perfect earth too. but only those who love him NOW will share in it.

  32. Drew says:

    Ken’s NOT Crazy… YOU Are Naive IrishCream!!! Toyna’s “ask God to forgive” is much closer to CRAZY! This has NOTHING to do with God… And EVERYTHING to do with GOV! Go To Church ALL You Want Tonya… but please don’t post your God Delusions.

    Man Is The Cause… God Is A Myth!

  33. Nya says:

    Get a clue people someone is testing chemical warfare and we are all so blind to it that we let it happen without blinking an eye. Someone let something into the atmosphere which killed the birds and as the air got heavy with moisture it deposited the chemical into the water where the fish were killed. this has to be some type of nerve gas which paralyzes them and caused them to stop flying and crash to the ground. hence the trauma the news tries to distract us with. and the fish to stop moving and drown.

  34. Drew says:

    NYA… Bravo… It Certainly Is Man/Gov Related!!!!

    If 300 Million Citizens Believed Like You Do…
    Things Would Change For The Better… OVERNIGHT!

    Vote EVERY Politician Out of Office… And Shut Down The GOV!

    That’s The Only Way To Save The USA!

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