Happy New Year everyone! And with a new year comes new strangeness. I’ve always been fascinated by these Fortean “falls from the sky” stories, in which animals fall from the sky for no apparent reason. Fish, frogs, birds, have all been reported falling from the sky, and in many cases, in places where they shouldn’t. If a location has no major lakes or rivers nearby, how are fish just falling from the sky? Such reports go back hundreds of years, and Charles Fort documented hundreds of such falls.
It seems like our first “fall” story is here, with a story going around the web of over 1,000 blackbirds dying and falling over a one-mile area in the town of Beebe, Arkansas. Here’s the story from the Associated Press:
BEEBE, Ark. – Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused more than 1,000 blackbirds to die and fall from the sky over an Arkansas town.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Saturday that it began receiving reports about the dead birds about 11:30 p.m. the previous night. The birds fell over a 1-mile area of Beebe, and an aerial survey indicated that no other dead birds were found outside of that area.
Commission ornithologist Karen Rowe said the birds showed physical trauma, and she speculated that “the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail.”
The commission said that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area could have startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress.
Robby King, a wildlife officer for the agency, collected about 65 dead birds, which will be sent for testing to the state Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.
Rowe said that similar events have occurred elsewhere and that test results “usually were inconclusive.” She said she doubted the birds were poisoned.
While I doubt there is a paranormal explanation for this particular fall (and is more likely due to some natural phenomenon which we do not yet understand), I think some of the “official” explanations in this story are a bit ridiculous. The birds apparently showed signs of physical trauma (though we are not told exactly what kind of trauma), but lighting hitting over a thousand birds? That’s a bit dubious. I’m a bit more on board with a hail storm killing them. As for the fireworks explanation, I don’t buy it for a second. If that were the case, we’d have tens of thousands of dead pigeons littering the streets here in New York City on July 5th.