Jan. 6 UPDATE: See this special report: Fracking the life out of Arkansas and beyond
Jan. 3 UPDATE: New numbers: 100,000 drum fish die along 20 mile corridor of Arkansas River. At least 5,000 re-winged blackbirds have died in Beebe, per NY Daily News.
By various sources
On Thursday, Dec. 30, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission reported a massive fish kill in Roseville, along the Arkansas River. But only a single species is involved: drum fish. The next day, AGFC received reports that about two thousand black birds fell from the sky 125 miles east in Beebe. Again, only a single species is involved and only in a one-square mile area.
From Today’s THV
Just before folks in Beebe rang in the New Year, many witnessed an uncanny resemblance to the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” About 2,000 black birds fell from the sky off Windwood Drive, leaving quite the mess to clean up. (Video)
Today’s THV spoke with folks who initially thought the birds were poisoned because they are what they call a nuisance around this time every year, but they are surprised to hear it is more of a mystery.
Stephen Bryant recalls, “Millions, millions fly over every night. You look up at the sky and it’s just black and then last night at about 10:30 I came out here and saw a bird drop.”
Melissa Weatherly says, “I immediately called mom because I had to go to work, I said you have to come get the kids and get the dog because I don’t know what’s going on.” She continues, “It was horrible; you could not even get down the road without running over hundreds. It was that bad.”
The mystery is unraveling like scenes from a movie, dozens of U.S. Environmental Services crews spent the day picking up the birds, walking between homes and climbing on roofs with protective hazmat suits and breathing masks,.
Charles Boldrey stands outside watching the crews, “Nobody knows, I asked these guys who are out here picking them up and they don’t seem to know anything. Nobody seems to know anything. It just kind of freaked everybody out.”
Officials with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission flew over the area and determined it’s a one mile stretch. There are a variety of dead black birds, mostly red winged and a duck was also found.
No one has been evacuated because the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) air test came back clean for toxins.
Weatherly is skeptical, “They’re walking around in masks and I’m wondering do we need the same thing because what makes that happen for them to drop out of the sky like that.”
Katherina Yancy with Today’s THV found one bird still living. It was confused, injured, continuously walked in circles and didn’t make a sound or attempt to fly.
Officials will confirm their findings when they get the test results, until then they are giving these possible scenarios: lightning, stress, high altitude hail or startled by fireworks, but neighbors just want answers.
Bryant says, “Something out of a movie and Hazmat people are walking around not telling us anything.”
Boldrey adds, “I’d like to know. Kind of spooky, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The birds should be cleaned up by Sunday. Game and Fish Commission’s Karen Rowe says poisoning doesn’t appear to be the case and strange events similar to this have occurred across the globe a number of times.
The City of Beebe held an emergency city council meeting Saturday morning to approve paying the U.S. Environmental Services to clean the neighborhood.
Sixty-five dead birds have been sent to off for testing.
Arkansas Game and Fish Press Release:
BEEBE, Ark.– Friday night, ringing in the New Year took on a whole different meaning for the citizens of Beebe. Around 11:30 p.m., enforcement officers with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began getting reports of dead black birds falling from the sky in the city limits of Beebe.
Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived. The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city. AGFC wildlife officer Robby King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds. “Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky,” King said. King collected about 65 dead birds that will be sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.
The AGFC has flown over the area to gauge the scope of the event. There were no other birds found outside of the initial area.
AGFC ornithologist Karen Rowe said that strange events similar to this one have occurred a number of times across the globe. “Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail,” Rowe said.
Another scenario may have been that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost. The birds may have died from stress.
Rowe said that it didn’t appear as though the birds died of any poisoning or other event. “Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds and only involved them falling out of the sky it is unlikely they were poisoned, but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin,” she said. Testing will begin on Monday.
The City of Beebe has hired U.S. Environmental Services to begin the cleanup and dispose of the dead birds. The environmental firm will go door-to-door to pick up the birds that are still in yards and on roof tops.
An Arkansas resident posted this YouTube. The report on the massive fish kill starts at about 2:15 into it:
A similar massive bird kill happened in New Jersey in 2009: