Birds falling from the sky
On the 7 February in Cuauhtémoc in northern Mexico, hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) were caught on video falling from the sky. This mysterious event surprised and stupified Cuauhtémoc´s residents. However, birds falling from
On the 7 February in Cuauhtémoc in northern Mexico, hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) were caught on video falling from the sky. This mysterious event surprised and stupified Cuauhtémoc´s residents. However, birds falling from the sky on mass events have been reported on numerous occasions over the years. In the USA on 31 December 2010, thousands of birds were reported to have fallen from the sky in Arkansas, and in 2014 a bird falling event was also reported in St. Louis. In 2021 hundreds of birds also fell in Ferrol, in northwest Spain, hitting cars and pedestrians. So what is causing this strange phenomenon?
In Arkansas, 5000 birds were found dead in a square-mile area in the town of Beebe. What caused this multitude of bird deaths? Various studies have ruled out the effect of bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and pesticides as potential causes of this devastation. Investigations have found that in the majority of cases the birds died of hemorrhaging consistent with blunt trauma. Usually, in wild birds, this type of injury is due to flying into stationary objects such as trees, buildings, powerlines, cars, etc.
Regarding the bird deaths in New Mexico, tweeting on social media suggested a diverse assortment of causes for the bird deaths such as pollution or 5G antennas. From watching the video it can be seen that the actual cause of death was blunt trauma caused by impact with the ground. However, although blunt trauma may be the cause of death, it doesn´t explain why birds are flying mass into the ground.
Apparently, witnesses reported hearing unusually loud noises on the night when between 4,000 and 5,000 birds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. As this occurred on New Year´s Eve, these noises were most probably caused by fireworks. Blackbirds are generally understood to have poor night vision as they are typically daytime fliers. It has been theorized that the fireworks forced the birds to fly at unusually low altitudes, causing them to fly into objects. This explanation is supported by the fact that residents reported seeing birds flying at rooftop level on the evening of the incident.
Chased by Predator
An ecologist employed by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has suggested that the mass bird death event in New Mexico was probably the result of being chased to the ground by a raptor. He has noted that the blackbirds moved in a wave-like motion similar to a shoal of fish as if they were being chased from above. In their attempt to escape the predator many of them unluckily flew into the ground.
Apparently, the birds that fell from the sky in St. Louis did so after feeding on grubs and insects from contaminated soil. A forensic study found lethal levels of DDT in birds collected. The polluted soil was the result of years of pollution by a nearby chemical plant.
Not that uncommon
From the cases studied it would appear that the cause of mass death of birds falling from the sky is usually blunt trauma. However, some incidents may be the result of other causes such as pollution. In the case of blunt trauma, the collision with objects may be caused by a variety of phenomena, such as being chased by a predator or flying at low altitudes due to environmental disturbances. However, whatever the causes of these events, the various examples that have been recorded over the years indicate that as a phenomenon, birds falling from the sky, is not actually that uncommon.