My aunt and I spoke of this story tonight. I love to provide information like this, and since she had not heard of the birds falling in Arkansas, and was interested, it made for a good conversation all around. Back when I was in radio I could have used this story for days.
The reason for the thousands of birds dropping is still a mystery.
Times Square had the ball drop, and Brasstown, N.C., had its descending possum. But no place had a New Year’s Eve as unusual, or freakishly disturbing, as Beebe, Ark.
“One of them almost hit my best friend in the head,” said Christy Stephens, who was standing outside among the smoking crowd at a party. “We went inside after that.”
The cause is still being determined, but preliminary lab results from the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission revealed “acute physical trauma” in samples of the dead birds. There were no indications of disease, though tests were still being done for the presence of toxic chemicals.
Karen Rowe, the bird conservation program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the prevailing theory was that the birds had been startled by New Year’s Eve fireworks and suddenly dispersed, flying low enough to run into chimneys, houses and trees. Pyrotechnics are used to scatter blackbirds for bird control, though only during the day, given the birds’ poor vision.
Beebe (pronounced BEE-be) is a congregating spot for blackbirds, and one witness told Ms. Rowe that he saw the birds roosting earlier in the day and heard them again at night just after the fireworks started.
“It was the right mix of things happening in a perfect time sequence,” Ms. Rowe said.