The Sky is Falling

January 5, 2011

Brit Trogen


Aflockalypse. Swarmageddon. Blackbird Monday. Did 2012 start early or something?


Beginning on New Year's Eve, birds have been falling dead from the sky for no apparent reason. Five thousand in Beebe, Arkansas on Dec. 31, along with 100,000 fish deaths in a river a hundred miles away. Another five hundred in Louisiana. More in Sweden, followed by some more fish who wanted to get in on the story.


A creepy message from God? A bad bout of weather? Someone keeping a mysterious New Year's resolution? Let's catch up on the strangest story of the new year!


One theory is that New Year's fireworks in Arkansas may have confused the blackbirds, sending them flying into nearby buildings. And while it's unclear why this type of event would only happen here and now, as opposed to in every other celebrating town, it could be a simply case of coincidence. Those Arkansans (Arkansonians?) are known for their party-throwing skills, after all. 


Louisiana's state wildlife veterinarian has revealed that power lines may have killed most of the Louisiana birds, due to injuries found on the head, neck and back consistent with hitting power lines or vehicles in the dark, and the locations where the birds were found (I'll give you a hint - they were close to power lines.) 


But Dan Cristol of the Institute of Integrative Bird Behavior Studies is skeptical of both theories. He believes the birds would need to be ill or startled from their roosts to hit a power line or be startled by fireworks... unless somebody blasted something directly into their roost and shook them out of resting. 


In any case, the U.S. Geological Service has some calming statistics. Turns out this sort of thing happens all the time. From June to December of last year there were 90 mass bird deaths, five of which were over 1000 birds, with the largest death of 4000 caused by a waterfowl parasite.


So unless we break 100 mass deaths in the next week or so, the apocalypse probably isn't coming after all. 



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