|Updated: 1/02/2012 4:51 am
||Published: 1/01/2012 7:59 pm
Blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe for the second year in a row on New Year's.
Wildlife experts say the millions of blackbirds swirling in the skies is a natural phenomenon, but Beebe is drawing national and even international attention for the conspiracy theories swarming around the cause of their deaths.
Bird experts determined the cause of death to be fireworks, but this year, they say it's intentional.
Last year, people speculated the birds were poisoned, or their deaths were a sign marking the end of the world, but wildlife experts say the loud noise from fireworks send the birds into a frenzy, causing them to crash into homes, cars, trees, and each other before plummeting to their deaths. This year, experts say it looks like people targeted a blackbird roost with fireworks causing their deaths.
Millions of blackbirds flying overhead are a spectacular sight to see that is common in the winter months in Arkansas. Blackbirds come back to Beebe year after year, increasing in numbers, peaking in January.
The sudden death of thousands of birds last year caused by fireworks forced law enforcement to put a ban on fireworks this year, but blackbirds still appeared dead on the ground again.
Thurman Booth, State Director of Wildlife Services for the USDA says, "This is an act of human beings. Their agenda was to scare the roost, scare the birds, to get some attention."
Last year, Booth received numerous frightened phone calls about the blackbirds dropping dead from the sky. "Do not let this natural phenomenon we see many times across the south frighten anyone or consider it some terrible thing. It's perfectly normal."
Charles Moore lives right next to a roost, and has been watching the birds for the last several years. He found 8 dead birds in his yard New Year's Day. "I heard a pretty powerful firework go off in the distance, nothing terribly close, but that triggered some movement from the birds. I realized there is a correlation between the boom of the fireworks and the movement of the birds."
Moore says it's disappointing to see some people try to ruin what he calls the bird's awesome ritual. "It's sad when you see a beautiful bird just lying dead on the ground."
The reason blackbirds didn't drop dead on the Fourth of July from fireworks is because blackbird season is November to March. Perhaps the reason why the number of blackbird deaths is down from a few thousand last year to just around a hundred this year is because more people are aware fireworks scare the birds, so more people refrained from shooting off fireworks.
Booth says there is an overpopulation of blackbirds in Beebe and the birds are a potential health hazard. He recommends trying to prevent blackbirds from roosting in the same location for more than 3 years in a row. Using fireworks at night to scare the birds to death is not the way to do it. Booth says their habitat should be altered professionally, and there are devices and tactics to scare the birds out of the roost during the day without killing them.
The first report of dead blackbirds falling from the sky came just after 7pm Saturday night. Fireworks are legal in the city of Beebe. Wildlife officers and police patrolled the area, but no one was cited.