Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Birds Falling from the sky (dead), fish kills

First it was in Arkansas on New Year's Eve, now another event in Louisiana. It's very weird.

From the Guardian, UK (since it has become international news):

t began, in portentous fashion, approximately half an hour before midnight on New Year's Eve, when the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) began hearing reports of blackbirds falling from the sky in Beebe, a town of approximately 5,000 people in the centre of the state.

Before midnight struck thousands of birds dropped in an area about a mile long and half a mile wide, mostly dead but some still alive. A helicopter flight by AGFC officials found no other dead birds outside this small area. Some of the bodies were sent to the state's livestock and poultry commission laboratory, and others to the Wisconsin-based National Wildlife Health Centre.

It was not an unprecedented phenomenon, according to Karen Rowe, an AGFC ornithologist. She said: "Test results (in previous incidents) usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail."

Keith Stephens, from the commission, said later that it was believed New Year's Eve fireworks could be a more likely cause, scaring the birds from their roosts and causing them to die from stress.

The birds were very common in the predominantly rural area, feeding mainly on grain, Stephens told CNN. "If someone was to shoot fireworks in an area where they were roosting, while they were asleep, then that could have been what caused their deaths," he said. He was "very confident" that further tests on the birds' bodies would find the cause.

Separately, up to 100,000 dead drum fish were found washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near to Ozark, about 120 miles away.

The AGFC said disease appeared to be the culprit here, but that tests to confirm this would take up to a month to complete.
Then (From the Baton Rouge Advocate):

LABARRE — Hundreds of dead and dying birds littered a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Pointe Coupee Parish on Monday as motorists drove over and around them.

State biologists are trying to determine what led to the deaths of the estimated 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings on La. 1 just down the road from Pointe Coupee Central High School.

The discovery of the dead birds — some of which were lying face down, clumped in groups, while others were face up with their wings outstretched and rigid legs pointing upward — comes just three days after more than 3,000 blackbirds rained down from the sky in Beebe, Ark.

Necropsies performed Monday on the birds in Arkansas showed the birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots leading to their deaths, The Associated Press reported...

Slota also declined to speculate on a cause for the deaths, but he said a search of USGS records shows there have been 16 events in the past 30 years involving blackbirds where at least 1,000 of the birds have died seemingly all at once.

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