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Officials stumped as 1,000 dead birds fall from Arkansas sky

By Associated Press
Sunday, January 2, 2011 11:03 EDT
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Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused more than 1,000 blackbirds to die and fall from the sky over an Arkansas town.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Saturday that it began receiving reports about the dead birds about 11:30 p.m. the previous night. The birds fell over a 1-mile area of Beebe, and an aerial survey indicated that no other dead birds were found outside of that area.

Commission ornithologist Karen Rowe said the birds showed physical trauma, and she speculated that “the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail.”

The commission said that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area could have startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress.

Robby King, a wildlife officer for the agency, collected about 65 dead birds, which will be sent for testing to the state Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

Rowe said that similar events have occurred elsewhere and that test results “usually were inconclusive.” She said she doubted the birds were poisoned.

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