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.