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Fright likely killed thousands of birds in Arkansas

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CHICAGO – Fright likely killed thousands of birds which dropped onto a small town in Arkansas, officials said Monday.

As many as 5,000 birds began falling over the small town of Beebe shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve.

"We right now are pretty confident that the trauma is what caused the die-off," said state veterinarian George Badley.

A local resident reported hearing about 20 loud booms Saturday night -- which could have been fireworks or a cannon to get rid of nuisance birds -- and saw a huge flock of frantic birds when he went outside.

"He could hear the blackbirds fluttering around -- he could hear their wings and he could hear them hitting into things," Badley told AFP.

Blackbirds have poor night vision and they were likely killed because they banged into houses, trees and each other in their fright.

However, the state is conducting further tests to make sure the birds were not poisoned or diseased, Badley said.

It was not a good weekend for wildlife in Arkansas.

About 80,000 to 100,000 dead fish were found floating in the Arkansas River about 100 miles away from Beebe a day before the birds were killed.

Officials believe they were killed by disease because only one species -- drum fish -- was affected.

"We did something wrong, didn't we?" joked Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission.

Stephens said it's possible that a tornado which whipped through Arkansas and killed three people Friday morning may have had something to do with the bird deaths. (AFP)




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