Dead Birds Spark Conspiracy Theories...Though, Not That Uncommon
The lead detective in the case of the raining birds loaded her car with boxes of the dead creatures on Monday, taking them for shipment to a national laboratory in the hope that tests would reveal why thousands of birds suddenly fell from the sky upon the small town of Beebe, Ark.
In the middle of the New Year revelry, as many as 3,000 red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, and European starlings – which often flock together in winter – rained out of the skies, a seemingly Hitchcock-esque phenomenon that scared local residents and prompted concerns about a possible toxic event.
"This was very traumatic for a lot of people. It was very scary," says Arkansas state ornithologist Karen Rowe, talking via cellphone while on her way to ship the birds' bodies to an ornithology lab at the University of Wisconson-Madison. "There were a lot of people who ... witnessed the birds falling from the sky, and since it was New Year'sEve night, it lent some questions to whether there was foul play."
Early tests on the birds showed no toxic gases trapped in their feathers, though biologists found some physical trauma indicative of being hit by hail or lightning. Still, a bird die-off of this magnitude is unusual. Among the possible explanations: People shooting off fireworks in the area flushed a large roost of birds out of treetops, causing them to fly into either a hail storm or a lightning strike.
Beebe's blackbird population is large enough so that the US Department of Agriculture has in the past attempted large-scale scarecrow techniques to move large flocks out of the area. Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, the USDA gave up those efforts a few years ago.
In 1973, several hundred ducks dropped from the sky near Stuttgart, Ark., known as "The Duck Capital of the World," victims of a sudden storm. In another case, biologists found hundreds of what Ms. Rowe calls "perfectly good," but dead, pelicans in the middle of the woods. While the pelicans showed no outward signs of injury or singe marks, necropsies showed they'd been hit by lightning.
The Arkansas bird mystery seemed especially freaky because it happened all at once and on a night when large numbers of people were outside watching fireworks or traveling home from New Year's Eve parties. Dead birds littered roads, front yards, and rooftops.
Not all of Beebe's residents were alarmed. "Every house cat in Beebe had a New Year's present of delicious blackbird," says Rowe.
Biologists estimate that between 1,000 and 3,000 birds fell over Beebe on New Year's.
Adding to the mystery is an apparent fish kill 125 miles away in the same state. A day before the bird die-off, a tugboat operator near Ozark, Ark., spotted thousands of dead drum fish floating in the Arkansas River. Biologists say the two events are probably not related and suggest that the fish kill – a much more common event than a bird rain – is likely linked to a disease that affected only one species.
Life in Beebe began to resume a sense of normalcy by the end of the weekend, Rowe says.
"The good thing was that it was a single event, it didn't occur again, and once all the birds were cleaned up and nothing else was wrong, most people were comforted," she says.
LET'S GET APOCALYPTIC
Here are a few Bible verses about birds, in terms of the end of the world:
The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.
Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away ..."
"I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God" ...
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh...
NOW FOR THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS...
Yes, the conspiracy theories are already percolating around the dead birds and fish?
As expected, Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists were blaming the government, especially the most likely culprit being HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program). HAARP is an experimental program conducting research into the ionospheric applications of high atmospheric technological applications, including missile detection, radio transmission, etc.
Much of the attention directed at HAARP has been drawn to the program’s IRI (ionospheric research instrument), which is capable of “exciting” certain areas of the atmosphere. The ionosphere, full of electrons, heavily influences the Earth’s electricity and radio transmission. And so HAARP’s research with the IRI has given rise to comparisons to Nikola Tesla’s Death Ray, causing many conspiracy theorists to believe that the IRI can cause earthquakes, storms, power outages, and on and on.
This page was last updated on: 1/21/2011
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