It was New Year’s Day of 2011 when residents of Beebe, Arkansas, witnessed a shock of their lives. Thousands of blackbirds found dead and no one knows why. All of them suffered from blunt internal trauma, as if they were hit with something.
Some people speculated that it could be the weather, with the stormy winter winds and hail causing the birds to get disoriented. Others believe that it could be the fireworks that woke the birds from their sleep, disorienting them and eventually hit on some objects. Although both causes are plausible, it is hard to explain why it only happened now when fireworks have been used in every New Year’s Eve celebrations in the area, as well as the sheer number of casualties.
Since that reported sighting, several cases of massive deaths among birds and fish appear not only in the United States, but also in Brazil, Haiti, United Kingdom, and even as far as New Zealand. Although birdkills and fishkills are not an unusual sight, the number of incidents happening at a short span of time worried many people, bringing up the possibility that it could be “the end of the world.”
Scientists have since slowly pieced together the reasons for the animal deaths. The cases of dead fish were probably caused by a sudden drop in the water’s temperatures (or what is called a “cold snap”), which is a usual event in some parts of the world at this time of the year, or a sudden outbreak of specific disease since many of the fish that died belong to the same species.
As for the dead blackbirds, wildlife specialists say that it is “a strange coincidence” for them to die all at once, considering that there have been similar cases of massive blackbird deaths over the past 20 years.