Dead birds and fish provoke concerns

In different parts of the world, birds and fish are showing up dead. In a report by Gant Daily, hundreds of red-winged blackbirds plummeted to the ground after fireworks set them off. Meanwhile, reported the Boston Globe, thousands of dead herring washed ashore in northern Norway. Both events occurred on New Years’ Eve.

For Beebe, Ark., this is a repeat occurrence of last year – in which over 5,000 lifeless birds fell from the sky. In response, fringe-y ‘end of days’ assumptions were linked with the bird deaths. However, it was soon learned that fireworks startled the birds out of their roosts, causing them to fly around in a disoriented state, where they would collide with stationary objects such as trees, power lines, and buildings.

This year, while the blackbird deaths are still believed to be firework-related, police and officials from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are probing what they believe to be an intentional act by humans to spook the birds and recreate last years’ tragedy.

Game and Fish Commission spokeswoman Ginny Porter noted, “Someone went into [the blackbirds’] roost and set off fireworks. We didn’t catch them; we don’t know who.”

Beebe resident Robbie Stroud said that the latest death of the birds was highly alarming, even if the numbers of fallen birds were not as large as that of the previous year. “It was pretty wild,” he said. “We got [outside] and backed out of the driveway and it was freaky. There were dead birds lying everywhere.”

While the facts seem to point out that the blackbird deaths do not directly stem from climate change, the fact that they are – if remotely – man-made highlights the situation as a delicate potential animal rights issue.

Moreover, an environmental link to the dying birds cannot necessarily be ruled out, as is suggested by the fact that thousands of eared grebes crash-landed all over roads and highways throughout southern Utah two weeks before the latest blackbird die-off.

Grebes (which are aquatic, duck-like birds) that were migrating to the Mexican coast for the winter never quite made it there; instead, they rained down upon football fields, parking lots, and snow-covered surfaces all over the southern part of the state.

Teresa Griffin, wildlife program manager for the Utah division of Wildlife Resource, said stormy conditions in the area probably confused the birds. “The storm clouds over the top of the city lights probably made it look like a nice, flat body of water. So the birds landed to rest, but ended up slamming into pavement.”

As for the fish, the dead herring may have been driven ashore by predators, or they could have been washed onto that stretch of coast by a powerful storm that hit Norway around Christmas.

As locals pondered how to clean up the beached school of herring, they disappeared shortly after. Jens Christian Holst, of Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, remarked that the fish had likely washed back into the North Sea.

While these incidents are all seemingly unrelated, an environmental cause has not yet necessarily been taken out of the equation. A report by The Inquisitr noted of the fallen grebes that mass bird deaths are not uncommon. They rarely happen, however, in such large numbers.

Then again, as Griffin noted, human intervention does play its role. “Before there were [artificial lights],” she said, “The sky was always paler than the ground. When all of a sudden there’s light all over the place, they don’t know which way is up anymore. This was the worst downing I’ve ever seen.”

Photo: “Molly the dog is puzzled as she walks on a northern Norway beach covered in dead herring. The herring are believed to have been driven ashore by predators.” Jan Petter Jorgensen/AP Photos


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Erie, Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he operates a music review channel on YouTube, creates artwork, and is writing a fantasy novel, as well as a self-help book and several digital comics.