Noelle Swan

Fireworks Blamed for Arkansas Blackbird Deaths, Cause of Fish Kill Still Unknown

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

New Year's Eve fireworks are thought to have spooked thousands of red-winged blackbirds, sending them to fly blind into the dark night.

Nearly a month after Arkansas residents found thousands of dead red-winged blackbirds and tens of thousands of dead drum fish, half the mystery remains unsolved.

The 4,000-5,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell from the sky this New Year’s died as a result of blunt trauma, according to tests conducted by several state and federal agencies, announced the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on Wednesday. Weather radar confirmed the theory that dense swarms of the birds took off together during New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations. Unaccustomed to flying at night, the birds have poor night vision and are thought to have crashed into buildings, trees, and other stationary objects.

The bizarre event occurred less than 24 hours after 80,000 drum fish washed up on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Game and Fish Commission has conducted similar tests on the fish, but has been unable to find any conclusive cause.

Tests of the river water revealed normal minerals, nutrients, and metals and did not find any toxins. Infections and parasites have been ruled out as well. AGFC Chief of Fisheries, Chris Racey is quick to reassure consumers that fish caught in the river are still safe to eat.

Coupled with the blackbird event, the riverbanks strewn with fish have drawn a lot of national media attention, but fish kills are not uncommon. While pollution and other human interference can occasionally lead to fish kill, in many areas of the nation, these events are simply a natural phenomenon. In Massachusetts, MassWildlife receives so many calls from residents disturbed by riverbanks dotted with dead fish, that they have a web page devoted to reassuring the public that fish kill is often a natural process. This is a seasonal occurrence and can be triggered by many different factors, from diseases to oxygen levels in the water.

Arkansas rarely sees fish kill of this size, but it does experience this type of event annually. “Unfortunately, we probably will never know exactly what killed these fish,” conceded Racey.

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