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Blackbirds fall from sky, fish die off: What's a conspiracy theorist to think?

Absent a final explanation, wild theories abound concerning reasons Arkansans' saw blackbirds fall from sky and fish die off en masse. The event revives superstitions about birds as omens.

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A worker with United States Environmental Services LLC collects dead birds from the back yard of a home in Beebe, Ark., on Jan. 2. Wildlife officials are trying to determine what caused more than 1,000 blackbirds to die and fall from the sky over the Arkansas town.

Stephen B. Thornton/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP

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The deluge of dead red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and starlings that fell out of the skies over Beebe, Ark., on New Year's Eve in all likelihood has a simple scientific explanation.

Yet genuine concern spread quickly through the town of about 5,000 on New Year's Eve, and understandably so, as environmental cleanup workers in white jumpsuits descended on Beebe on New Year's Day to pick up thousands of dead birds from roads and walkways.

The main worry was that the birds, like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, were an indicator of a toxic threat – a possibility that has largely been ruled out. Yet the event spooked residents near and far as, in the absence of a final explanation, imaginations are running wild. People have tried to link the bird die-off – which is certainly unusual, though not unprecedented – to everything from a sign of biblical end times to chemical conspiracies, shifts in the Earth's magnetic core, and even proof of UFOs.

IN PICTURES: The red-winged blackbird and other ornamental birds

Movies like "The Core," TV shows like "FlashForward," and books like the "The Doomsday Key," which all involve scenes featuring birds falling out of the air, fuel superstitions that birds such as ravens and vultures have prophetic properties or serve as omens. It's a long-standing belief among mankind.

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