Arkansas Bird Deaths Mostly Solved; Fish Kill Still A Mystery
January 27, 2011
by Mark Memmott
For those still wondering why thousands of birds died in Beebe, Ark., on New
Year's Eve and thousands more fish washed up dead around the same time in a
river to to the west near the Oklahoma border:
— The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says "three laboratories' test results
on red-winged blackbirds that died in Beebe's Windwood neighborhood Dec. 31 show
the cause of death was blunt-force trauma."
It adds that "it appears unusually loud noises, reported shortly before the
birds began to fall, caused the birds to flush from the large roost. Additional
New Year's Eve fireworks in the area may have forced the birds to fly at a lower
altitude than normal. Blackbirds have poor night vision and typically do not fly
The startled birds crashed into things — trees, buildings, utility poles — and
— But the commission says that "the exact cause of the Arkansas River fish kill
that took place on Dec. 29, 2010, still eludes biologists." They've been able to
rule out bacterial and viral infections. Toxins do not appear to be to blame.
"Unfortunately, we probably will never know exactly what killed these fish,"
said AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries Chris Racey. "But the testing has
eliminated the largest public concerns of disease, parasites and toxins. We have
no reason to think fish caught in the Arkansas River are unsafe to eat."