Mass Animal Deaths

When 5,000 red-winged blackbirds dropped dead from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas on New Year’s Eve, people got a little freaked. A few day’s later, 500 dead and dying red-winged blackbirds fell onto a Louisiana highway, and no one felt any more comforted.

Experts try to allay our fears. “It’s not surprising if it’s one or two events like this,” said Melanie Driscoll, a senior bird biologist for the National Audubon Society. “These things happen.”

But how? Scientists say the two incidents are unrelated. The Arkansas bird deaths are blamed on holiday fireworks, which spooked the birds and caused them to run into buildings and cars. The Louisiana birds probably flew into a power line.

A perfectly reasonable explanation, sure, but not entirely satisfying, and we’re left wanting something more. 

As James Gorman wrote in NYT, it is human nature to search for the most interesting causes of things, which is why people can’t help wondering whether something more sinister is going on. Coincidence doesn’t quite cut it.

Photo: Liz Condo/The Advocate, via Associated Press

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