The birds, which were almost all dead when spotted, began falling around 11:30 p.m. on December 31 in Beebe. It was estimated that more than 1,000 birds had fallen over an area of about 1.5 kilometres before midnight. CBC News reported close to 4,000 birds had plummeted to the ground.
“Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky,” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officer Robby King said in a press release
Officers collected the birds, of which the majority were red-winged blackbirds, and testing will be done.
The U.S. Environmental Services was also hired to clean up birds and they collected them while wearing hazmat suits and breathing masks.
Karen Rowe, an AGFC ornithologist, said similar events have occurred in other places.
“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,” she stated
“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.”
AGFC suggested that fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roosts, causing them to die from stress.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) tested the air and found nothing which would have caused the deaths.