1,000 plus dead blackbirds fall from sky in Arkansas, ushering in New Year

Some “physical trama” was cause-

A very odd story.  This happened 30 minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

More than 1,000 dead blackbirds fall from sky in Arkansas. AP in MSNBC






  1. Connie Avatar

    Weren’t tornadoes in that area at that time?

    1. Salle Avatar

      I believe that could be a factor. There was a large band of severe thunderstorms with many tornadoes occurring from the gulf to the Great Lakes. I also wonder about what time this actually took place. If it was near midnight, I can imagine that since it took place over a city, perhaps there was a considerable number of birds possibly struck by celebratory gunfire. I know that in Pocatello, Idaho the New Year is greeted with a minimum of fifteen minutes of celebratory gunfire that terrifies pets and people alike. I have to make sure my pets are indoors and that I stay home with them to calm them when all this is going on, not just for the noise but so that they are not hit by bullets returning to earth.

      And some folks think it’s some kind of sick thing when they see folks from Arab countries firing weapons in celebration of events… So, I wonder, what they call this.

      Oh, what the military industrial complex hath wrought.

      1. WM Avatar


        Good point. When these idiots fire guns in the air, the projectile (bullet or shotgun pellets) goes up to its maximum arc, all the while losing speed, but then must return to earth. If the shot fired is straight up the bullet travels until it stops going up, then comes down accelerating on its way, at the rate of the earth’s gravitational pull (9.8 meters/sec sq.), slowed only by air friction, reaching terminal velocity, which is still enough to severely injure or kill a human or pet, or damage the roof of a car or house. If the bullet is fired at an angle it still may have some forward velocity in addition to the gravitational effect, striking earth, or whatever it hits, possibly with an even greater impact.

        The part about the birds being struck by gunfire – most probably not.

  2. atom Avatar

    Salle, those ideas are flawed. It’s VERY hard to hit a bird with a rifle in flight on purpose. Nearly impossible actually. I think ppl might have noticed tornadoes with the birds, you might even suspect they would notice the whirling dervish of doom before they noticed tiny dead birds. Um… and wtf do Arabs have to do with this?!?! Dbl Huh? I bet you do stay home to save your pets from this celebratory scourge of returning bullets. When you see the bullets falling towards them do you push them aside or dive in front? Just curious. Anyways, thanks for solving this riddle for the masses, we need braintrusts like you to sort out science for us.

    1. WM Avatar


      Read basic physics post above in response to Salle, if you understand the science concept – physics that is.

      As for those returning bullets, try an experiment. Take a dozen of your brightest friends, and have each bring a loaded, large caliber gun to a remote desert spot with no vegetation. Fire your guns straight into the air multiple times and just stand there waiting for the bullets to return to earth. Report back on experiment. We’ll be waiting.

  3. Larry Zuckerman Avatar

    i’ve seen the gun thing on New Years in Broward and Dade counties, FL (Miami-Ft Lauderdale) and every once in a while, someone is hit, even killed.

    Once in south central Kansas (Barber County), I came across a flock of white pelicans that were dead across a wheat field – it was during turbulent weather with lightning, hail, and perhaps cyclonic winds.

    It’s sad, but must have been impressive with such large birds falling from the sky.

  4. T Avatar

    Really? Could you possibly believe that one THOUSAND blackbirds were hit by gunfire at the same time? Why not any other birds? Why were there no bullets in the birds, or marks from bullets? Shheeeshh

  5. Salle Avatar

    Several years ago there was a flock of grebes, I think it was, had mistaken wet pavement for water during a storm in the Virgin River, Utah area, hundreds, maybe more died on impact.

    But this is something different. I watched a video on CNN’s web site a little while ago and it seems this happened overnight. I wonder what they will find. Being that there was such severe weather, I can imagine that this had more to do with it than anything else. The birds in the video looked like maybe their necks were broken, but dead things have a way of looking broken at that point. One still alive bird, in the video, looked as though it had a damaged wing, they showed maybe a second of that bird since the focus was on the dead ones.

    I wonder if they were perhaps caught in some really high level wind and/or hail. (Wouldn’t lightning have burned them somewhat?) I wonder what the average speed is for a red-winged blackbird, as most of the birds in the video appeared to be. With a storm wave the size and strength of what was traveling through the region that night, could well have been impossible for the birds to avoid it. Sad.

  6. WM Avatar

    Likely not the case here, but it is not uncommon for birds in urban areas, if it is foggy or snow whiteout conditions, to mistake lighted commercial signs or billboards for sunlight, and head to the aura created the light, only to smack into a wall or board, resulting in the death of an entire bird flock.

  7. PointsWest Avatar

    My guess is that they have congregated for winter migration. A congregation of tens of thousands were all roosting in a group of trees. New Years Eve fireworks flushed the large congregation from trees. They instinctually swarmed as a congregation over the town because of the many lights but where it was night time and where the blackbirds could not see well, the congregation kept splitting into two or more groups and these groups would collide. This may never happen in daylight. With repeated head-on collisions of large swarms of blackbirds, there were many head-on collisions of individual birds and they would fall hundreds of feet to the ground. The combination of the head-on collisions and the impacts with the ground killed many birds perhaps over a period of hours.

  8. Mike Avatar

    It’s obvious what happened here. The Canadian timberwolfs from Idaho did it.

    Smoke a pack a day.

  9. Cindy Avatar

    Arkansas Game and Fish have changed the estimated number of birds to 5,000:(

  10. Jane Avatar

    What about the damage of fireworks. I have seen injured Crows after July 4th and New Year’s Eve celebrations. There is also the superstition that follow crows and ravens.
    So, is this also an omen.

    1. vickif Avatar

      Indeed, the news is now reporting fireworks caused the birds to fly into one another, and the frenzy caused by fireworks was the culprit.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        I think it was a combination of fireworks and that the birds were congregated as many bird species do in winter. If the birds had not been congregated, there would not have been so many spooked by fireworks at one time.

        I also conjecture that the large swarm of birds stayed over the little town because of the light. Everytime the swarm got near the edge of town, it would be too dark for them to see and they would turn back. So large swarms kept flying back and forth over the same small area leading to collisions of the swarms and of individual birds.

        I am not sure about this particular species of blackbirds, but some species of blackbirds and starlings can congregate into swarms or flocks of tens of thousands in late fall and winter.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      I’ve seen a huge increase in chem trails in the skies around here. Anyone else noticed in other parts of the country?

    2. PointsWest Avatar

      I’ve driven through Louisiana a few times. It is like anywhere else until you come to some low-lying area that is some kind of marsh or swamp. Then the road is littered with dead critters of all kinds…racoons, gators, turtles, nutria (a big rodent), bullfrogs, snakes, birds. etc. and you will have so many insects hitting your windshield that you need to run your window washers to see.

      Then you come up a small rise, are out of the marsh or swamp, and the driving returns to normal again.

      The density of life in some of those Louisiana wetlands is incredible…much more so than in Florida.

  11. Bryanto Avatar

    Lets wait tell the autopsy reports come in before we all freak out please. Lets remember that winter is VERY stressful on wildlife and they are always on the very edge of freezing to death and/or starving. To put it in perspective those 1,000 birds came out of a flock of hundreds of thousand,and there are literally millions of Red-winged Blackbirds that winter in that area, so a thousand or two really isn’t a big deal. The best theory I have heard so far is that fireworks scarred them and stressed them out so bad it killed them,which is very plausible(and one more reason why I hate those d*** things).

    1. Save bears Avatar

      I was listening to CNN this morning and they have performed examinations on 17 of the birds and they all showed signs of internal bleeding, the state vet thinks they were scared by something and ended up flying into objects that caused the damage, now the count is up to about 5000 birds in Arkansas and there has been another event in Louisiana, cause has not been determined yet..

  12. vickif Avatar

    Officially blame goes to fireworks!

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      …and the artificial light of the small town that probably kept them swarming over the same small area.

  13. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    The cynical side of me is inclined to think alcohol and gunpowder were involved. Arkansas, Louisiana.

    There are many villages across the USA that wish they could remove a scourge of flocks of opportunistic dark birds…crows, grackels, blackbirds, starlings, etc. A few years ago, an estimated 15,000 blackbirds moved into the trees of the Crown Hill Cememtary in Powell Wyoming ( pop. 6000 ) over the winter, forsaking the nearby grain fields but not migrating south, either. Dealing with them was an exercise in exasperation. They could be scared off, but would soon fly back. Our dear friends at Wildlife Services were called in and attempted some feeble countermeasures, finally concluding that only a 10-day fusillade from a platoon of shotgunners would have any hope of running them off for good. It was never tried. In addition to disturbing the neighbors , it likely would have woken the dead….

    Down in Mexico in the heartland city of Irapuato ( sp) birds numbering in the millions swarm in from all directions and take over the town trees at sundown in winter, oblivious to the humans and bustling city below . It’s an unbelievable sight. Wear a wide hat, and carry a rag to wipe off your camera.

    The 150,000 white Storks that roost in the singular grove of tall trees at a village a few miles outside of Ubud on the island of Bali are magical to observe, and are not discouraged because they disperse to all corners of the 80 x 120 mile island to spend the day in the rice paddies eating pests. ( Many rice farmers put goldfish and colorful carp in their rice pools for the same reason, which grow to the size of salmon.) The Bali storks are part of the bigger scheme of things , besides being incredibly aesthetic. Unless of course you live under or near them…

    Having said all this, the two instances of blackbirds dying in the South are interesting, but the numbers are nothing to be alarmed at. For now.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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