If your New Year’s resolution, like mine, was to swear off TV in the year 2011, you may have missed this news item.
In memorium ~5,000 red-winged blackbirds
But my other forms of news media this past weekend were swarming with notices about the thousands of red-winged blackbirds that fell from the sky in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas (coincidentally a town having a people population of 4930). ‘Twas a mystery.
At 11:30 pm New Year’s Eve thousands of dead, dazed or dying birds began dropping from the skies. The next morning within a mile and a half stretch, startled homeowners were finding bird corpses on their roofs, more than several on their lawn and perhaps a dozen on the street asphalt as they backed out the driveway. That’s my version of a bad New Year’s hangover to wake up to.
For several years now and at this time of year, several hundred thousands of red-winged blackbirds have used a wooded area in this town as a nighttime roost. So it seems it is a loss of just a percentage of the population. Nevertheless, I’m sad for the loss of these feathered friends.
A visit by officials to the Arkansas roost found no dead birds there. For this reason (and later autopsies found empty stomachs) poisoning has been ruled out. Autopsies did reveal blunt trauma and internal bleeding with death occurring in mid-air, not from ground impact.
Ornithologists are now speculating—at the time of this posting—that while the birds were roosting, violent weather (such as tornado and/or lighting and/or hail) passed through and took their lives.
We’re still waiting to learn how 100,000 drum fish, 100 miles away from Beebe, were found sick or dead in a twenty mile section of the Arkansas River.
Photo source: red-winged blackbird by ‘dmallen321’ (Flickr); many birds by ‘seabamirum’ (Flickr)
Nancy R. Peck