Bird Falls

Published: 5:43 AM GMT on January 05, 2011

Bird Falls

Apropos of the recent bird fall reported from Beebe, Arkansas this list of prior such events may be of interest. The list was provided by Prof. Randall Cerveny of Arizona State University. Comments and suggestions as to the plausible cause of this phenomena would be welcome!

I quote this list from Randy:

"I have in my archive of weird and unusual weather a list of twelve massive bird falls:


1. Baton Rouge LA: July 1896:
On Friday morning last early risers in the little capital [Baton Rouge LA] witnessed a peculiar sight in the shape of a shower of birds that fell from a clear sky, literally cluttering the streets of birds that fell from a clear sky, literally cluttering the streets of the city. There were wild ducks, catbirds, woodpeckers, and many birds of strange plumage, some of them resembling canaries, but all dead, falling in heaps along the thoroughfares, the singular phenomenon attracting many spectators and causing much comment. The most plausible theory as to the strange windfall is that the birds were driven inland by the recent storm on the Florida coast, the force of the current of air and the sudden change of temperature causing death to many of the feathered creatures when they reached Baton Rouge. Some idea of the extent of the shower may be gathered from the estimate that out on National Avenue alone the children of the neighborhood collected 200 birds.

2. Worthington MN, March 13, 1904:
750,000 Bird Fall. "Roberts tells the fate of migrating Lapland Longspurs on the night of March 13-14, 1904 which 'was very dark but not cold, and a heavy, wet snow was falling with but little wind stirring. Migrating Longspurs came from the Iowa prairies in a vast horde, and from 11 P.M. until morning, incredible numbers met their deaths in and about villages by flying against buildings, electric light poles and wires, and by dashing themselves forcibly onto the frozen ground and ice.' In Worthington, Minnesota, an attempt was made to compute the numbers lying dead on two lakes with an aggregate area of about two square miles. 'A conservative estimate showed that there were at least 750,000 dead Longspurs lying on the two lakes along!' The total area on which dead migrants were found covered approximately 1,500 square miles."

3. Shreveport LA, March 20, 1941: AP:
Blackbirds by the hundreds dropped dead from the sky at Barksdale Field. They cluttered the army airbase so thickly that its police were called out to clear the ground. A soldier said that large flocks of the birds broke flight suddenly and plopped to the ground. Some of the dead birds were taken to the post hospital, where surgeons began autopsies."

4. Pageland, SC, May 15, 1942:
Thousands of birds fell on the town of Pageland South Carolina on May 15, 1942.

5. New York City NY, September 11, 1948:
Thousands of birds (of various species) were killed when they crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City and into the transmitting tower of Radio Station WBAL in Baltimore. In this case, "there was no fog and weather conditions were good during the night and morning."

6. Warner Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia, October 7, 1954:
50,000 birds, representing 53 species littered the runways of Warner Robbins Air Force Base south of Macon, Georgia. "On the night of October 7-8, 1954, the largest recorded ceilometer kill in history occurred at Warner Robbins Air Force Base, a few miles south of Macon, Georgia. It involved 53 species and an estimated 50,000 birds, 2552 of which were examined... An advancing cold front in autumn is believed to have precipitated these mass mortalities by bringing together adverse weather conditions (especially a lowered cloud ceiling), nocturnal migrants, ceilometers and/or all obstructions."

7. Eau Claire, WI, September 20, 1957:
According to local Charles Kemper, a local bird watcher in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the largest single killed ever recorded was a 20,000 bird fall discovered on September 20, 1957. The article suggests radio towers as the cause.

8. Santa Cruz and Capitola, CA, August 18, 1961:
Sooty Shearwaters are large oceanic birds that migrate from Australia, New Zealand and South America every fall to the coastal waters of North America. On August 18, 1961, tons of dead and injured sooty shearwaters fell on the coast of California from Pleasure Point to Rio Del Mar, along Monterey Bay. Police officer Ed Cunningham first noticed the deluge of dead birds around 2:30 A.M. when large dead birds started crashing around his patrol car. "By the time I had stopped the car they were raining down all around me. They were big birds and they were falling so fast and hard they could have knocked me senseless," he recalled. "I thought I had better stay in the car and that's just what I did." Eventually driving from Capitola for about five miles to West Cliff Drive, however, Cunningham found the shore highway and beach also covered with dead birds. At sunrise, the carnage was even more dramatic - bird carcasses covered power lines, fence posts, shrubbery and TV antennas. Authorities identified the large birds as a type of petrel known as the sooty shearing. A few of the creatures survived their plunge to earth and eventually flew away. Experts who examined the dead birds confirmed they were killed by the fall.Thousands of birds, the corpses up to 16 inches long with wing spans of more than 3 feet. They lay everywhere. Several thousand were still alive but unable to fly; those live birds taken by local people down to the ocean recovered. No explanation has been accepted for the cause of the fall.

9. New York City, NY, September 29, 1970:
Thousands of birds crashed into the Empire State Building. It was supposed that they had been attracted by floodlighting but on that evening the tower lights had been turned off a few hours before they hit.

10. Winfield KS, January 22, 1998: MSNBC.
On January 22, 1998 up to 10,000 birds, mostly lapland longspures were slaughtered at a tower during a West Kansas snowstorm. According to Eugene Young, a professor at Southwestern College in Winfield Kansas, "There were birds scattered all around the agricultural fields, up to a quarter-mile from the tower. And you could see birds that were impaled on the stubble. It was milo or wheat stubble. The birds actually flew into the ground hard enough."

11. Orlando, FL, August 17, 2001: Orlando Sentinel:
Nearly a hundred birds dropped from trees or even in mid-flight about 6 P.M. in downtown Orlando's Lake Eola Park on Friday. Most were grackles and pigeons but at least one duck also was found dead. Park rangers quickly informed hundreds of people gathered to watch an outdoor movie (Chicken Run) not to touch the birds. Witnesses were shocked: "I didn't know what was going on," said Ruth Vlahakes, 26, walking in the park with her sister, Sarah, "I knew something was weird. I saw a bird, then she saw one, then there was another one, and another one. Every time we went around we saw another dead bird."

12. Sangongian village, Jiangsu province, China, February 3, 2004: London Mail&Guardian:
More than 10,000 bird fell from the sky onto eastern China's Jiangsu province, the state media reported. The Beijing Youth Daily reported that flocks of bramble finch suddenly fell from the sky onto the Sangongvillage in taizhou city. Experts from the Jiangsu province agriculture department that because the birds died while in flight, the cause of death may have been contamination in their food, water or environment. The birds looked like sparrows and were small in size.


*******
Randall S. Cerveny
President's Professor of Geographical Sciences
School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning
Arizona State University

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About The Author
Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Bird Falls

Bird FallsApropos of the recent bird fall reported from Beebe, Arkansas this list of prior such events may be of interest. The list was provided by Prof. Randall Cerveny of Arizona State University. Comments and suggestions as to the plausible cause of this phenomena would be welcome! I quote this list from Randy:"I have in my archive of weird and unusual weather a list of twelve massive bird falls:1. Baton Rouge LA: July 1896: On Friday morning last early risers i...

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