Falling Birds, Fish, and Other Enigmas

January 9, 2011 Updated: September 29, 2015


A male red-winged blackbird. (Alan D. Wilson/Bird, Wildlife And Natural Landscape Photography)
A male red-winged blackbird. (Alan D. Wilson/Bird, Wildlife And Natural Landscape Photography)

New Year’s Eve and the first week of the New Year were met with downpours of birds and massive fish deaths across four continents. Experts were quick to offer explanations, though in these unusual situations that today’s science has not previously encountered, who is an expert?

There are many speculations about the reasons behind each incident. Some think the incidents are related; others think they are separate. I think we are jumping to conclusions too soon.

No “explanation” so far fits the situation perfectly. We need to acknowledge that science doesn’t know everything in the universe, and be humble while investigating phenomena. Otherwise, we are limiting our minds to things we already know, leading to these initial speculations that really cannot explain the incidents but nonetheless are regarded as expert opinions.

So far, the main theories for the fish deaths include disease, sudden temperature change, and decrease in oxygen level. Usually these are sound explanations for fish deaths, but not for the specific incidents recently. These deaths are massive, and all happened within a short time.

The fish didn’t die over an extended period of time, but just overnight, and in most regions where fish died, only one species of fish was involved. If biological and environmental causes led the fish to die, why did they all die in one day, and why didn’t other aquatic animals die?

As for the birds, most experts thought they fell to the ground because of fireworks, power lines, high-altitude hail, or lightning. What’s odd, however, is that the birds didn’t fall at the same time or shortly after the fireworks, high-altitude hail, or lightning events.

Regarding the high-altitude hail and lightning theory, why haven’t similar bird deaths happened on other days with bad weather?

In the Louisiana case, ABC reported: “Louisiana officials believe the birds fell to their death either late Sunday or early Monday after flying into a power line. The birds sustained injuries from broken beaks to broken backs. What prompted the birds to fly into the power line, however, is still a mystery.”

But why haven’t birds collectively flown into power lines before? Why didn’t they die just near power lines, but instead pretty much everywhere? What led the “officials” to come to such conclusion anyway?

As far as the Arkansas case is concerned, in which birds fell on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, why did it only happen this year and not during previous years when people also celebrated with fireworks? Why didn’t it happen elsewhere? And why did it only happen to one species of bird?

A female red-winged blackbird. (Wikimedia Commons)
A female red-winged blackbird. (Wikimedia Commons)
ONLY MALES FELL IN ARKANSAS: A screen shot of a search in Google images showing photos from the bird fall in Arkansas. All the birds photographed were males. (The Epoch Times)
ONLY MALES FELL IN ARKANSAS: A screen shot of a search in Google images showing photos from the bird fall in Arkansas. All the birds photographed were males. (The Epoch Times)

The species that fell to the ground en masse in Arkansas was the red-winged blackbird. Males and females of this species look distinctively different from each other. Males are black with a patch of red and yellow feathers near the shoulders, while females are smaller and brownish-gray, rather like sparrows.

I didn’t see the birds in Arkansas in person, but in all the media photos that I have come across, including those that show government researchers examining the birds, I haven’t seen a single female red-winged blackbird. How come no one has questioned why?

Moreover, not all of the birds found on the ground were dead. If, like the experts told us, the birds had heart attacks or flew into buildings while being startled by fireworks, why didn’t they die in mid-air from a heart attack or by striking a building and then hit the ground? Or by first being struck by electricity, and then hitting the ground?

Suggesting that the birds must have been extremely shocked, Susie Kesielke, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo, told CNN: “Blackbirds roost communally in the wintertime, and they sleep more soundly than most animals.”

But if they sleep more soundly than most animals, shouldn’t some other tree-dwelling animals be the ones that were shocked awake, and then died?

Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), reacted more like a responsible scientist. “Science is struggling to explain these things. These are examples of the surprises that nature can still bring,” he told Reuters.

Foreign Rains in the Past

In fact, much more bizarre things have been happening for centuries, as pointed out in an Epoch Times article on foreign rains.

According to the article, U.S. researcher Charles Fort (1874–1932), who collected about 60,000 clippings from newspapers, magazines, and other sources about unusual occurrences, spent years studying what are known as foreign rains. Throughout his career, he recorded rains consisting of crosses, coins, snakes, ancient Chinese stamps, blood, frogs, insects, cotton, oils, and other liquid substances.

In 1578, there was a downpour of large yellow mice in Bergen, Norway.

In 1873 and 1877, respectively, Scientific American reported that frogs covered Kansas City after a storm, and that it rained snakes in Memphis, Tenn.

In February 1877, a yellow, flaky substance fell in Penchloch, Germany. The substance was reportedly thick, had a fragrance, and came in the shapes of arrows, coffee beans, and round discs.

A study by Australian zoologist Gilbert Whitley recorded 50 fish rains in 1972.

In May 1981, Naphlion, Greece, became host to frogs that fell from the sky, apparently having traveled a long way—the species is only found in North Africa.

After a storm of frogs in July 1901, witnesses in Minneapolis, Minn., discovered that four streets were covered almost three inches deep in frogs, making it impossible to walk.

See more enigmas and what we can make out of them on the next page