Thousands of dead blackbirds fall from the sky in Arkansas
BEEBE, AR (NBC) - City and state officials are baffled by thousands of dead blackbirds that fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas over the weekend.
Mayor Mike Robertson says the first calls came in at 11:30 on New Year's Eve, people reporting finding dead birds up and down Windwood Drive.
Game and Fish, the Department of Environmental Quality and emergency services authorities were called in to assess the situation as firefighters and city employees spent the early hours of the new year picking up the dead birds.
Charles Moore says tens of the thousands of the blackbirds descend on the neighborhood around this time every year, and surprised by what he found in his yard Saturday morning.
"I just came out to get my paper and I saw a little black thing here and there and I said, "Wait a minute. What is that?" Moore said.
Moore initially thought the city killed the birds because of they were a nuisance, but was surprised when he learned the deaths were a mystery.
Air tests came back clean for toxins, and without any obvious clues the state may have to rely on lab tests and autopsies.
Game and Fish says it's an unusual incident but not unheard of.
"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," said Game and Fish ornithologist Karen Rowe.
The town's city council held an emergency meeting Saturday morning and hired U.S. Environmental Services to pick up and dispose of the remaining birds.
Ward Two Alderwoman Becky Short drove through the neighborhood, telling people about the cleaning crew and advising them not to touch the dead birds.
"No. I'm not worried about it," Short said when asked about the mystery surrounding the birds' death. "We just hired these people so we can get this mess cleaned up."
With police in the streets, authorities on the corners, and helicopters in the air, Moore says it's hard to believe that everything is okay.
"Very comforting," Moore said. "We got Game and Fish, helicopters, state police- but there's no problem Mr. Moore. And that helicopter continues to circle."
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