Ark birds died mid-air due to "multiple blunt trauma to their vital organs," preliminary autopsy results show, state veterinarian tells NBC
Some 4,000 to 5,000 redwing blackbirds fell dead from the sky over Beebe New Year's Eve. This early word sounds a little like one of the early theories — upper level hail — might still be in the running. Out of the running: stress over fireworks. But a theory is emerging that some kind of noise (fireworks or something) caused the roost, which had bedded down for the night, to take flight. Blackbirds don't fly at night, they have poor vision. Thus they flew into all manner of relatively low obstacles, including trees and power lines. (You read that death number right; figure was updated for me by Game and Fish.) No signs of poison in initial lab tests.
A blog reader who lives a mile from where the birds fell reports, however, that there was no rain in the area at the time and radar images from the National Weather Service at that hour don't indicate unusual disturbances. More for mystery fans to chew. CHECK THAT: My correspondent has now re-examined coordinates and radar images and found pretty strong activity indicated by radar of the affected neighborhood at the time the birds fell.
KUAR's Kelly MacNeil quotes the state vet as saying startled birds more likely flew into structures than were hit by hail. But what high structures were there in Beebe to claim 4,000 to 5,000 birds? Maybe height wasn't needed for the spooked birds.
Game and Fish said, by the way, in response to numerous questions: No indication of a linkage between the bird deaths and the recent huge kill of drum on the Arkansas River. The fish kill is believed to be disease related, as opposed to related to an environmental cause, because it seemed to affect mostly one kind of fish.
More from Game and Fish on the birds:
BEEBE — Results from preliminary testing released today by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Veterinary Diagnostic Lab show that red-winged blackbirds died from massive trauma on New Year’s Eve.
The trauma was primarily in breast tissue, with blood clots in the body cavity and internal bleeding. All major organs were normal and the birds appeared to be healthy. Gizzards and stomachs of the birds were empty.
According to the report, “Further tests will be done to rule out other causes, but the birds suffered from acute physical trauma leading to internal hemorrhage and death. There was no sign of any chronic or infectious disease.”
It’s not apparent what caused the bird’s unusual behavior, although loud noises were reported shortly before the birds began to fall from the sky. Blackbirds have poor night vision and do not typically fly at night.
Beginning at about 11:30 p.m., Dec. 31, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officers received reports of blackbirds falling from the sky in a square-mile area of Beebe. It’s estimated that up to 5,000 birds fell before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were alive when officers arrived.
The AGFC flew over the area in a helicopter to gauge the scope of the event. No dead birds were found outside of the initial area of fallen birds.