It seems this has become pretty big news. And beyond the mass fish and bird deaths in Arkansas, a large number of sudden bird deaths have occurred in Louisiana, Sweden, Kentucky, and other places, and a large number of sudden fish deaths have occurred in other states and countries.
A lot of people have been visiting my articles on the mass bird deaths in Arkansas and Louisiana over on our sister site Planetsave, as well as an article on a number of possible explanations. From my own research as well as the many comments on those articles, I must have seen a dozen possible answers. Unfortunately, none make it completely clear yet what the cause of these deaths are.
Of course, when one such news story pops up, as one expert on the matter pointed out early on, many more similar but not so astounding stories are likely to get media attention they wouldn’t anyway. That has surely been the case. It should be noted that a ton of birds and fish die every year from a variety of causes, even in large groups. Nonetheless, some of these recent occurrences really are out of the ordinary and it makes it that much more difficult to identify the cause when they are happening in different places around the world.
To comprehensively summarize many of the possible explanations I’ve run across by now, I’m going to split the explanations into three categories: 1) possible causes of various bird deaths (only), 2) possible causes of various fish deaths (only), 3) possible causes of both.
Possible Causes of Mass Bird Deaths in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Other Places
- Fireworks: Whether fireworks, in general, scared and disoriented birds which then flew into objects, each other, or the ground and died or heartless pranksters targeted large roosts of birds specifically to cause such an occurrence, this is one commonly discussed possibility. (The odd thing about this theory is, why haven’t we heard of such things happening around New Year’s before?)
- Weather: A hail storm or lightning could have injured or disoriented the birds as well. Of course, if combined with the fireworks, the effect or possible harm could be even greater. (Again, however, why haven’t we heard of this happening before?)
- Geologic shifts and an electrostatic discharge: Such an occurrence, if strong enough, probably wouldn’t have killed the birds but could have just knocked them out and, if flying high enough, caused them to die upon impact when they fell to the ground. (Those who propose this possibility claim that birds are especially sensitive to such occurrences and seem well aware of geologic processes. The Arkansas site is apparently located above a major fault, the New Madrid Fault. Perhaps other locations where large numbers of birds died are as well. But it seems we would have gotten some news about major geologic shifts or would have such occurrences more often if this is the case. However, as discussed above, maybe we do and we just don’t hear about it because they normally don’t cause so many birds to die at once as they did in Arkansas.)
- Change in the Earth’s Magnetic Fields: Birds apparently navigate with the help of the Earth’s magnetic fields. With a significant, even if temporary, shift in the magnetic fields, birds can lose their sense of direction (especially at night if they have bad night vision, like blackbirds do) and could fly into things, hurting or even killing themselves. This could help to explain why there are bird deaths like this happening all over the world.
- Avian flu. Think you’ve heard of that before. However, as numerous experts have said, in the Arkansas and Louisiana cases, such a flu would not have caused so many birds to die all at once. The deaths would be a little more spread out.
Possible Cause of Mass Fish Deaths
- Of course, disease is one possibility. (Especially good possibility since it was only one type of fish that died in the Arkansas River.)
- Something in the water?
Photo Credit: margolove