Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused more than 1,000 blackbirds to die and fall from the sky over an Arkansas town.
BEEBE, ARK. — The carcasses of some of the nearly 2,000 red-winged blackbirds that inexplicably fell on an Arkansas town on New Year’s Eve night will be sent for testing to determine the cause of death.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says the state Livestock and Poultry Commission Lab and the National Wildlife Health Center Lab in Madison, Wis., will examine the dead birds starting Monday.
Meanwhile, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is investigating how 100,000 drum fish wound up dead and floating along the banks of the Arkansas River last Thursday.
Commission spokesman Keith Stephens says the birds fell in an area about a kilometre long and a half-kilometre wide. He says it’s not the first time birds have dropped from the Arkansas sky.
Environmental workers finished picking up the carcasses on Sunday.
Stephens said the dead fish were first found on Thursday, and fisheries officials are conducting tests to understand what killed them.
“The fish kill only affected one species of fish,” he told The New York Daily News. “If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish.”
The dead fish were found more than 200 km from the town of Beebe, Ark., where the blackbirds were found.
Commission ornithologist Karen Rowe says the flock of birds could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail, or may have been startled by fireworks, causing them to die of stress.
Mike Robertson, the mayor in Beebe, told The Associated Press the last dead bird was removed about 11 a.m. Sunday in the town northeast of Little Rock.
Several hundred thousand red-winged blackbirds have used a wooded area in the town as a roost for the past several years, he said. Robertson and other officials went to the roost area over the weekend and found no dead birds on the ground.
“That pretty much rules out an illness” or poisoning, the mayor said.
Rowe said similar events have occurred elsewhere and that test results “usually were inconclusive.” She said she doubted the birds were poisoned.