Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bad News, Conspiracy Nuts: Mass bird deaths “not unusual”

Earlier this week, we learned of a mystery in tiny Beebe, Arkansas. It seems that thousands of red-winged blackbirds suddenly and inexplicably dropped from the sky, dead. The usual birfer-troofer-blackcopterist crowd promptly went apeshit crazy, relating the mystery to everything from biblical prophesies of the end of days to the Gulf Oil Spill and Corexit (I kid you not) to a massive government conspiracy. Or something.

As it turns out.  These things happen all the time.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reports on a similar phenomenon that occurred in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana and discovered today.

Lab tests could take several weeks to come up with an explanation for the deaths, and LaCour declined to speculate on possible causes; however, he did say massive bird deaths have been known to occur in the state in the past, albeit in smaller numbers.

“Underlying disease, starvation and cold fronts where birds can’t get their body heat up” have caused similar occurrences “in various species over the years,” he said.

LaCour said some of the bird samples will be sent to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Center in Wisconsin for analysis.

USGS spokesman Paul Slota said Monday afternoon he was unaware of the mass deaths in Louisiana, but he expects bird samples taken from the Arkansas occurrence on New Year’s Eve to arrive Tuesday in Wisconsin.

Slota also declined to speculate on a cause for the deaths, but he said a search of USGS records shows there have been 16 events in the past 30 years involving blackbirds where at least 1,000 of the birds have died seemingly all at once.

“These large events do take place,” he said. “It’s not terribly unusual.”

This is one bird massacre that appears to have occurred naturally. Some speculation was that fireworks could have freaked out the birds and caused them to lose orientation. That seemed plausible, but there were no fireworks in Point Coupee Parish last night. It has been a particularly bitter winter so far in the south. That seems like a much more likely culprit—weather.

But there are thousands upon thousands of bird deaths that are not natural phenomena at all. In fact, these are entirely manmade.  One windfarm in Altamonte, California chops up tens of thousands of birds every year, including threatened and endangered raptors. The family cat is also responsible for the deaths of millions of birds.

Yeppers.  Tree huggers and Fluffy are cold blooded bird murderers.


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