In the second large-scale blackbird kill to hit the Southeast this week, 500 birds rained down on a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Louisiana.
The carcasses of red-winged blackbirds were discovered in rural Pointe Coupee Parish, near Baton Rouge. Just a few days earlier, 4,000 to 5,000 birds dropped dead about 300 miles to the north, in Beebe, Arkansas.
Officials say New Year’s Eve celebratory fireworks may have confused the Arkansas birds, causing them to crash into homes and cars. They have also pointed to lightning or a high-altitude hail storm as possible causes for the massive die-off.
Wildlife experts in both states sent carcasses to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. and the University of Georgia for testing, but it isn’t clear whether the cases are even related, and officials say it’s unlikely they will be able to determine an explanation for the deaths with absolute certainty.
Still, such widespread kills are not uncommon. The U.S. Geological Service reports 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12 alone, The Associated Press said Tuesday.
Last week, 83,000 drum fish washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, about 100 miles west of Beebe. Officials believe disease is to blame for those deaths, because only one species of fish was affected.