January 4th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Officials probe 'unusual' mass deaths of birds in two states

A National Wildlife Federation scientist says recent mass bird deaths were unusual, but not unprecedented.

A National Wildlife Federation scientist says recent mass bird deaths were unusual, but not unprecedented.

Josh Levs

(CNN) - Some of the nation's top experts Tuesday were looking for clues into sudden, mass deaths of birds in two states over New Year's weekend.

"This one is unusual because of the time period over which so many birds died," said LeAnn White, a field investigator with the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The center, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, is receiving samples from Arkansas, where as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings fell from the sky in a square-mile area in less than an hour on New Year's Eve, according to the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.

The center will also examine samples from Louisiana, where 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were found dead in Labarre.

A preliminary report conducted Monday by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission found that the birds in Beebe, Arkansas, likely died from massive trauma.

There had been reports of loud sounds in Beebe before the reports of birds falling began to come in. It's possible the sounds made the birds disoriented, and they went into sudden, chaotic flights, crashing into each other and into objects, White said. "You're disturbed, you're disoriented, you're trying to figure out where you are. We have seen some stuff like this before when there's heavy dense fog, and they'll run into towers and power lines," she said.

Other bird experts agree that that's a likely explanation. Still, the sudden deaths are quite unusual. "It's kind of a freak event," said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. "You just don't see these kinds of mass deaths very frequently at all."

At this time of year, blackbirds are in huge roosts, particularly throughout the southeastern United States, he said. They generally don't fly at night.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. shawn

    Thats wierd & creepy

    January 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  2. John Wilerson

    I do not deny the possibility that "forces" unkown to mankind may be involved..whether that be aliens, early signs of what's to come in 2012...etc In this case though, i have the feeling the cause is man-made and it's kind of strange that it's happenong close to the BP spill area. I wish we didn't dump so many chemicals in the water in order to help the oil dissolve faster. Those may be some of the after effects. Now you wonder why the birds died? I'm sure at least some of you know that in the winter season many birds travel in groups\formations. Those groups usually consists of hundreds to thousands of birds of the same kind. When one flies...they all fly..when one stops to drink water...the others do too. There's a chance that they all drank from the same contaminated source..that same source which is killing the fish. The scientists need to focus on the water ASAP!

    January 5, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  3. Laurie

    Ummmm..Speculate between Kentucky
    Louisiana and Arkansas oh and also those dead fish? hmmm yeah I guess it was a mass suicide because those birds and fish just decided, time to go (or) hmmm fireworks c'mon,there are many of us smarter than that...

    January 5, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  4. ArielleNicolle

    biochemical attack??

    January 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm |