Lifestyle & Belief

Blackbird deaths in Beebe, Ark., becoming New Year’s Eve tradition


A red-winged blackbird perches in the charred branches of a wildfire-burned tree near Gorman, Calif., on May 18, 2007.


David McNew

New York City and its ball drop has nothing on the town of Beebe, Ark., where a dead bird drop on New Year’s Eve is becoming a distressing annual tradition.

For the second year in a row, blackbirds dropped from the sky after Beebe residents began setting off fireworks to greet 2012, CNN reported.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokeswoman Ginny Porter told CNN that between 50 and 80 birds were reported dead.

Officials said that the blackbirds, which do not have good night vision, were probably frightened out of their roosts by the fireworks and died after crashing into trees, buildings and each other, CNN reported.

Last year, 5,000 birds died on New Year’s Eve, falling on sidewalks, cars and even one woman walking her dog, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP:

The blackbird die-off, coupled with tens of thousands of dead drum fish that washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River, flung the state into the national headlines and drew conspiracy theorists and filmmakers to the town about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock that shares Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe's last name. Some people speculated that the birds had been poisoned; others said their deaths marked the beginning of the apocalypse.

This year, local police took quick action to prevent a higher death toll. Officer John Weeks told the AP that after the first reports of "birds on the streets" came in around 7 p.m., the town instituted an emergency ban on fireworks, and police patrolled the town to enforce it.

"We started shutting down fireworks," he told the AP. "We're working on cleaning up the birds now."

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