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Heart attacks from fireworks? Really?
January 3, 2011 10:30 AM   Subscribe

First birds, then fish. between 4000-5000 blackbirds and an estimated 80-100,000 drum fish have turned up dead over the space of a few days around Beebe, Arkansas.

Mysterious mass bird deaths have occurred fairly regularly over the years, but rarely has the kill count been so high in such a short period of time. Explanations range from 'weather disturbances' to 'heart attacks from nearby fireworks'.
posted by FatherDagon (67 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Happy new year.

:(
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2011


Heart attacks from fireworks. Right. That's why we see tens of thousands of birds dropping dead all over the US every 4th of July.
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


The 80-100k figure for the drum fish comes from here, as well as other articles popping up over the last few hours.

I remember an article regarding an event that happened 5-10 years ago, where an entire flock of birds dropped dead next to a building that simultaneously had a really bizarre power surge on the second level, but couldn't find any archived mention of it online. Anyone else remember that?
posted by FatherDagon at 10:34 AM on January 3, 2011


I told you they shouldn't have cancelled Flash Forward after one series. Now we'll never properly understand why.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:35 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]




Wildlife officials are calling the two events unrelated yet the causes of these deaths – one of warm-blooded mammals and the other cold-blooded - are still speculative.

I'm more interested in the recent discovery of cold-blooded mammals.
posted by DU at 10:36 AM on January 3, 2011 [20 favorites]


That's why we see tens of thousands of birds dropping dead all over the US every 4th of July.

That made me curious to start checking around. Huh... no, this isn't quite the same.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2011


And people laughed at M. Night Shyamalan.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Theories to explain the sudden death of the blackbird flock have come thick and fast. Speaking to CNN Radio on January 2, Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the AGFC, said that the incident isn't that rare, and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail.

Source
posted by fixedgear at 10:39 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"There is no cause for alarm," the governor said Monday morning, shortly before seething boils enveloped his ravaged face. State legislators were unavailable for comment due to unexpected darkness and sporadic reports of swirling chaos.
posted by theodolite at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


Birds do die en masse fairly often, as the ornithologist in fixedgear's link states. And there has been a lot of weird weather in the general region.

The fish, on the other hand, seem more unusual. I would be concerned about water pollution for sure, but I suppose/hope that is being investigated.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Arkansas Blog (run by the local alternative weekly, and far more credible than the awful Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) has a tidbit about "multiple blunt trauma to their vital organs," which sounds like it supports the hail hypothesis.
posted by box at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watch out for the walkin' dude.
posted by fight or flight at 10:45 AM on January 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


a geography lesson for the bloggers/journalists who want to write about this - beebe and ozark aren't really that close.
posted by nadawi at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm more interested in the recent discovery of cold-blooded mammals.

Not to mention mammalian birds.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


See, I would have guessed lightning, but also figured that the local 'authorities' would have offered up the explanation sitting on the 'completely plausible' shelf before giving up and rummaging around in the 'patently ridiculous ideas' box.

Huh, apparently the fish and bird events were relatively nearby, but not 'right next to each other' like many articles suggest. 125 miles between the two.

i'll stop commenting now, mass bird deaths have always been a weird fascination for me
posted by FatherDagon at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2011


Sidhedevil - pollution isn't thought to be the cause as it's just this one species of fish. none of the other bottom feeders and none of the more delicate fish are dying off like this. it's much more likely what all the articles are saying - a disease that has affected that one type of fish.
posted by nadawi at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2011


In the article fixedgear linked, it is pointed out that the fish incident appears to be disease related, in contrast to the bird incident which appears to be blunt trauma. Coincidence maybe, but the two incidences are likely not related.
posted by samsara at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2011


Actually, the order was first fish, then birds.
posted by Ardiril at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2011


More local coverage, from a Little Rock tv station (Beebe, the bird site, is about 40 miles east of Little Rock; and Ozark, the fish site, is maybe 80 or 100 miles west of LR). And here's some local coverage of the fish story, which contains this inspiring quote from a Game and Fish official: "We'll have raccoon and birds and things like that will take care of it so there is really no clean up."
posted by box at 10:51 AM on January 3, 2011




DAN ACKROYD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN US?!?!?!
posted by Gator at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Angry Birds reference.
posted by fixedgear at 11:00 AM on January 3, 2011


Thanks, nadawi! Yeah, sounds like coincidence, then: drum fish disease plus a sudden mass death of blackbirds. That would freak me out if I lived there, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2011


Well, yeah: thousands of dead fish = raccoon/fisher/vulture/crow ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFET!
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:03 AM on January 3, 2011


Since when are birds or fish considered mammals regardless of blood temp?
posted by sourwookie at 11:03 AM on January 3, 2011


Oh, box, I am loving the "WAKE UP SHEEPLE" comments on your link.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on January 3, 2011


Somehow they're going to find a way to blame this on Bill Clinton. Or Obama. Or both.
posted by briank at 11:05 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anybody checked for an invisible dome surrounding the city?
posted by vytae at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Somehow they're going to find a way to blame this on Bill Clinton. Or Obama. Or both.

Perhaps HuckaBeebe
posted by edgeways at 11:08 AM on January 3, 2011


Fish kills are actually really common. Usually due to a low oxygen event but disease or temperature swings can do it too and if its only one species that's more likely.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 AM on January 3, 2011


I hate to state the obvious, but this was probably the result of a massive EMP detonation.

Also thousands of robotic birds and fish for some reason.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:13 AM on January 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


So FatherDagon, where were you when these occurred?
posted by Splunge at 11:16 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is either down to God, angry at the sinners in Beebe, Arkansas, or Satan, angry at the righteous in Beebe, Arkansas.

Those are the only two rational explanations.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Obviously caused by UFOs.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2011


More Arkancides. Curse you, Bill Clinton!
posted by steambadger at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2011


For the most part, when just one species is involved it's nothing to worry about. Unless it's your species, of course...

Lots of animals aggregate in winter. Those drum were probably all in a few big deep pools for the winter, and it got just a bit too cold for them. Same with the blackbirds, they it was probably one huge flock that got creamed by hail, lightning, whatever. It's sad, but it happens.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:35 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


weather disturbances?
fireworks?

Those seem doubtful. This seems more like what you might see with a chemical release, but then if that is the case it should turn up in the tox tests they are running.
posted by caddis at 11:35 AM on January 3, 2011


Last evening I participated in a little 'challenge' on Twitter to come up with the most 'creative' explanation for the bird kill.

*Just a side-effect from the experimental medical procedure used to keep Dick Clark alive for New Years Eve.

*It happens every time Bill Clinton goes back to Arkansas without Hillary...

*The flock passed over Arkansas' first alternative fuel facility, the Little Rock Pinto Bean Gas Refinery.

*An unusual number of Google Maps inquiries in the area sent several thousand very pointy icons down all at once.

*They weren't naturally blackbirds... the Gulf Oil spill just extended a LOT farther than BP would admit. (which became less funny after the fish kill was reported later)

*Mid-continent birds just got jealous of beached whales getting all the attention.

*As God is his witness, Mr. Carlson thought THOSE birds could fly...

The 'winner' (selected by an allegedly creative person from Hollywood) was "1,000 Fabios on roller coasters."

I'll be here all week.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


When the rooks were laid in piles by the sides of the road
posted by isopraxis


isopraxis! The Golden Archipelago was one of my favourite albums this last year (and I bought a copy of the dossier at their show here last spring).
posted by jokeefe at 12:22 PM on January 3, 2011


This seems more like what you might see with a chemical release

Not impossible, but from box's comment, apparently the two sites are about 100-120 miles apart, and it would be a strange toxin that just killed two specific species, one in the air and one in the water.

"Coincidence" seems a good working hypothesis, awaiting further data.
posted by Malor at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm more interested in the recent discovery of cold-blooded mammals.

Alas live dissection of Congressmen isn't getting funding from Congress.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:02 PM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


When Bill Clinton prepares to grill, he doesn't fuck around.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:04 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure it may SEEM like a coincidence, but I would lose both my Science Fiction fan and Metafilter credentials if I suggested this was anything other than the immediate oncoming DOOM of Humanity.

So the obvious solution is we need to quickly build a fleet of giant spaceships to hold the last of Earth's plants.
posted by happyroach at 1:24 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doomsday?
posted by Splunge at 1:51 PM on January 3, 2011


So the obvious solution is we need to quickly build a fleet of giant spaceships to hold the last of Earth's plants.

Get me Bruce Dern! (And Peter Schickele to write a theme song)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:42 PM on January 3, 2011


Actually, the order was first fish, then birds.

The birds were all like "Holy crap! Did you see all those dead fish? What's up with that?" and because they weren't looking where they were going, they rubbernecked their way into a deadly mass collision.

That's my hypothesis.

Actually, my real guess is that this is a dark omen which portends doom for us all, but my apocalypse bunker only holds so many, and I don't want to have to deal with a rush when people catch onto the whole "end times" thing.
posted by quin at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was a bunch of Cajuns on vacation up north in Arkansas. They had a recipe for a mass of good old drum fish and blackbird gumbo and they went out hunting and fishing and they were a little bit tipsy and just did not quite collect up all of their kill.
posted by bukvich at 2:59 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't get all high on conspiracy theory that often, but I'm also not buying "scared to death by fireworks". That theory is put forth by either someone very stupid or someone who has a great deal of confidence in the stupidity of others.
posted by troublewithwolves at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2011


Last night the moon was red as blood in Burning Steppes. I'm quite sure it's related.
posted by deborah at 3:26 PM on January 3, 2011


It might've been a macroburst.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:00 PM on January 3, 2011


So the obvious solution is we need to quickly build a fleet of giant spaceships to hold the last of Earth's plants.

Awww, c'mon, why does Bush get to go?
posted by Sportbilly at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2011


Obviously the Rapture is nigh.
posted by telstar at 6:29 PM on January 3, 2011


Yep, these are Signs. Creepiest movie I've ever tried to watch on a Sunday morning.
posted by monichacha at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2011


can anyone post a good recipe for blackbird?
posted by tustinrick at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2011


probably blackbird dosen't taste like chicken
posted by tustinrick at 7:24 PM on January 3, 2011


4000 ways of looking at dead blackbirds:
I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the tumbling of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds, yet vacant,
Like a tree
In which there had been three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the winter winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird falling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Beebe,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see the blackbirds
Strewn around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird dropped from the sky,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Plunging in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Arkansas
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be falling.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird fell
From the cedar-limbs.

XIV ...
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:19 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sure it may SEEM like a coincidence, but I would lose both my Science Fiction fan and Metafilter credentials if I suggested this was anything other than the immediate oncoming DOOM of Humanity.

IT IS TRULY THE END OF DAYS. REPENT, YE SINNERS. WEEP, YE FORNICATORS. THE MODS ARE COMING, WITH THEIR MIGHTY BANHAMMER. FIRST FOR THE FISH, THEN THE FOWL.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:41 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


500 birds fall out of the sky in Louisiana.

The discovery of the dead birds — some of which were lying face down, clumped in groups, while others were face up with their wings outstretched and rigid legs pointing upward — comes just three days after more than 3,000 blackbirds rained down from the sky in Beebe, Ark.
posted by fight or flight at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2011




top experts in biological and chemical weapons? according to the russians?

Wheeler graduated from West Point in 1966 and served at the Pentagon and as a rear-echelon staff officer in Vietnam before leaving the Army as a captain in the early 1970s. As the first chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, he was instrumental in raising money to build the memorial on the Mall amid fierce controversy in the early 1980s over its stark design. In time, the divisiveness gave way to acceptance of "the Wall" as an iconic national symbol of sacrifice and service.

In the decades after the memorial was dedicated in 1982, Wheeler worked mainly as lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission and as a self-employed business consultant. He also served as chief executive of several nonprofit organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and held a few mid-level advisory posts in the federal government for relatively brief periods, including a stint in the mid-2000s as a special assistant to the Air Force secretary.

Most recently, Wheeler had been working under contract for the Mitre Corp., based in McLean and New Bedford, Mass. The company does computer-related research and development for several government agencies, including the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

Wheeler "was hired as a part-time consultant for the Mitre Corporation in March 2009," the company said in a statement. "He was providing part-time support to outreach activities aimed at promoting discussions among government, industry and academia on cyber defense topics."
posted by nadawi at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2011


I'm sure this is nothing to worry about.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:58 PM on January 5, 2011


I knew it! ;)
posted by caddis at 7:02 PM on January 5, 2011


Thanks for that link, schyler523. I've been following that Wheeler story (it's huge here locally) but the tinfoil hatness adds a beautiful new dimension.
posted by fixedgear at 5:16 AM on January 6, 2011


This is silly. It's relatively common occurrence.

Here's a list of mass (large + small) bird deaths that goes back to 1995 maintained by the NPS.

Maybe this time it'll be the end of the world, but I'll believe it when a bunch of biologists tell us to stop panicking instead of telling us it's probably nothing to get alarmed about. Until then, everyone buying into the media sensationalism of the hour is pretty sad.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2011


Obligatory Angry Birds reference.

OK, how about this one: Angry Birds is actually an Ender's Game-like scenario.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:55 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently, the autopsies revealed that the birds were dropped by University of Arkansas wide receivers.

(Apologies to Razorback fans, I LOLed when my wife told me that one.)
posted by schyler523 at 8:42 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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