4 and 20 blackbirds, and 3,000, dead in the sky

By Jeannie Nuss

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 4 2011 1:22 a.m. MST

Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Brandon Doss examines dead red-winged blackbirds at the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Diagnostic Laboratory in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. Scientists are investigating whether bad weather, fireworks or poison might have forced more than 3,000 red-winged blackbirds out of the sky, or if a disoriented bird simply led the flock into the ground.

Danny Johnston, Associated Press

BEEBE, Ark. — Scientists say fireworks likely sent thousands of discombobulated blackbirds into such a tizzy that they crashed into homes and each other before plummeting to their deaths in central Arkansas.

Still, officials who are examining bird carcasses and stomach contents acknowledge it's unlikely they'll ever pinpoint a cause with certainty.

So for the small town of Beebe, Ark., The Mystery of Why the Birds Fell Out of the Sky remains unsolved. And it's becoming the stuff of local legend.

More than 3,000 red-winged blackbirds in all rained onto rooftops and sidewalks and into fields over the holiday weekend. One struck a woman walking her dog. Another hit a police cruiser.

Witnesses say a few stunned survivors even stumbled around like drunken partiers.

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