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Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • When birds fell on Bastrop

  • Reports of dead blackbirds falling from the sky in Arkansas and Louisiana may have reminded some Bastrop residents of the time it happened here.


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  • Reports of dead blackbirds falling from the sky in Arkansas and Louisiana may have reminded some Bastrop residents of the time it happened here.
    The Associated Press reports an estimated 5,000 red-winged blackbirds rained down on Beebe, Ark. on New Year’s Eve. The prevailing theory is that fireworks disoriented the birds, causing them to collide with homes and cars.
    On Monday, an estimated 500 blackbirds and starlings plummeted to their deaths along a stretch of highway in Pointe Coupee Parish, about 300 miles south of Beebe. The birds apparently hit a power line for unknown reasons.
    Something similar happened right here in Morehouse Parish, more than a decade ago.
    Grackles and starlings seemed to rain on the countryside between Bastrop and Log Cabin for about five days in January 1999.
    The Enterprise reports Jan. 27: “Many of the birds appear to have been killed after straying into highway traffic, although eyewitnesses have reported seeing some which seemed to have dropped dead in mid-flight.”
    A witness is quoted in the same article: “Blackbirds are just falling dead from the sky ... It looks like hundreds of birds are dead, what could be killing them?”
    The Bastrop bird mystery was mentioned in USA Today and can still be found on various Web sites as evidence for UFO’s or government conspiracies. In truth, the mystery was solved way back in 1999 by the La. Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.
    Jimmy Anthony, assistant secretary of the Office of Wildlife, investigated the dead birds and sent some of the carcasses to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc. The lab results told the story.
    “They died from a bacterial infection that caused lesions in the brain, skull and adjoining tissue,” said Anthony. “All of the birds were emaciated, indicating that the infection had been present for some time.”
    Mass bird deaths are not as uncommon as you might think. The U.S. Geological Service's Website listed about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12. There were five deaths of at least 1,000 birds, with the largest near Houston, Minn., where parasite infestations killed about 4,000 water birds between Sept. 6 and Nov. 26.

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