Arkansas wildlife officials are struggling to explain the recent, sudden deaths of tens of thousands of creatures. Late on New Year’s Eve, nearly 5,000 blackbirds fell dead from the sky in the small northeastern town of Beebe in an incident “straight from a Hitchcock movie.” A few days earlier, nearly 100,000 dead drum fish floated to the top of the Arkansas River just 125 miles west of Beebe. Authorities say the two instances of mass animal death are likely unrelated. Here are some of the explanations that have been suggested:
While some residents initially suspected that the birds, whom some consider a nuisance, had been poisoned, officials have questioned that explanation. “Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds… it is unlikely they were poisoned,” says Karen Rowe of the Game and Fish Commission, as quoted in the Daily Mail. “But a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin.”
New Year’s Eve fireworks
"Revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost," reads a Game and Fish Commission news release, as quoted in the Arkansas Times. “The birds may have died from [resulting] stress.”
Recent bursts of hail and lightning may explain the death of the birds, says Keith Stephens, a spokesman with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as quoted by Reuters. That said, no physical injuries have yet been detected on the birds’ corpses.
More theories here