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