City and state officials were perplexed when thousands of birds fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas on New Year’s Eve night.
Beebe mayor Mike Robertson said reports of the dead red-winged blackbirds and starlings first surfaced at about 11:30 p.m., WCSH6 in Portland, Maine said.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says the carcasses will be tested Monday by the state Livestock and Poultry Commission Lab and the National Wildlife Health Center Lab in Madison, Wis.
The birds fell in a one-mile area in Beebe, which is about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. The total number of dead birds remains unclear, with some news sources – including The Associated Press – reporting that 2,000 birds dropped dead and CNN claiming that as many as 5,000 died en masse.
Environmental workers finished cleaning up the carcasses on Sunday, AP reports.
The Game and Fish Commission said air tests came back clean for toxins and that there were no immediate clues as to what caused the avian genocide.
“Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail,” said Game and Fish ornithologist Karen Rowe, according to WCSH6.
Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens told CNN that the commission was also considering local New Year’s Eve fireworks a possible culprit.