Falling birds, dead fish greet 2011 in Arkansas

“Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, provided the new numbers, adding that 65 carcasses of the red-winged blackbirds had been collected and were being tested to determine the cause of death.”

“ 'We may have something today' on the cause, he said.”

“The state Livestock and Poultry Commission Lab and the National Wildlife Health Center Lab in Madison, Wis., are examining the dead birds.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission initially estimated the number Saturday at “over 1,000” birds before upping it.

The commission, in a release Saturday, noted, “Last night, ringing in the New Year took on a whole different meaning for the citizens of Beebe.” The commission continued:

“Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived. The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city. AGFC wildlife officer Robby King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds. ‘Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky,’ King said.”

Time magazine was more colorful:

“New Year's Day should be about turning over a new leaf. But for residents of Beebe, Arkansas, January 1, 2011 meant turning over thousands of bird carcasses that had fallen from the sky,” the magazine reports.

“In scenes befitting an apocalyptic thriller, residents woke to find the corpses of at least 1,000 red-winged blackbirds strewn across their lawns, streets and rooftops. An aerial survey revealed that all the avian casualties dropped within a one-mile stretch of town. The bird remains were so concentrated that motorists passing through the area struggled to avoid crushing them,” Time adds.

The state commission believes the possible causes include lightning, high-altitude hail, and stress from New Year’s Eve fireworks.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is busy these days. In addition to the birds, it’s probing a large fish kill too.

“Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday,” CNN reports.

Their account adds:

“Dead drum fish floated in the water and lined the banks of a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, about 125 miles northwest of Little Rock, said Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A tugboat operator discovered the fish kill Thursday night, and fisheries officials collected some of the dying animals to conduct tests.”

“Stephens said fish kills occur every year, but the size of the latest one is unusual, and suggested some sort of disease was to blame.”