Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blackbird Homicide

I hope everyone had a great start to the new year! Over my weekend blogging hiatus the big science story in the US was the mysterious death of thousands of birds on New Year's Eve in Arkansas.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
More than 3,000 blackbirds fell in the town of Beebe, AK and samples have been taken for analysis to determine what could have killed the birds in one mass attack. Initial reports said that the birds have died due to trauma (they fell out of the sky, so clearly that was a shocking conclusion.) Now the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is reporting that fireworks launched to commemorate the new year caused the birds' demise.

However, today it was reported that approximately 500 red-winged blackbirds (the same species found dead in Arkansas) and starlings fell from the sky in Labarre, Louisiana, hundreds of miles south of the original bird deaths. Early reports from Louisiana also state that the birds suffered some trauma, although an official cause has yet to be determined.

One theory on the mysterious deaths is that the mere sound of new year's fireworks could have startled the birds, causing them to fly into buildings or billboards. Although, you have to wonder why we've never heard of fireworks (launched every year for new year's, the fourth of july, weddings, fairs, and numerous other events) causing birds to die in large, concentrated groups.

I think that we're definitely going to have to stay tuned to this story to see what happens after the birds from Louisiana are analyzed more closely, and also watch to see if more birds die in other areas -- which most certainly wouldn't be attributable to fireworks.

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