Radar Images Show Startled Birds Taking Flight Before Arkansas Mass Death

Tests: Ark. birds died from blunt force trauma, maybe after crashing in dark.

ByABC News
January 27, 2011, 7:18 PM

Jan. 27, 2011 — -- A bird scientist has isolated weather radar images that he says show exactly what killed the 5,000-or-so birds that fell dead from the sky over Beebe, Ark., on New Year's Eve.

Sidney Gauthreaux, a biological sciences professor at a Clemson University lab that studies radar images of birds, said a cloud burst on weather radar animation captures a series of pulses of startled birds taking flight in the Little Rock suburb.

"There is no question that the exodus of birds from the roost is visible in the radar display images," Gauthreaux said in a statement released by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "The first exodus occurred about 10:20 [p.m.] and contained approximately 6,000-7,000 birds per cubic kilometer. ... At 11:21 p.m., another pulse of birds with a slightly smaller density left the roost."

The commission declared this week that three labs now confirm the bird deaths, which spooked Beebe residents and piqued the interest of conspiracy theorists, were caused by blunt force trauma.

The labs found loud noises, probably fireworks, sent the birds soaring into the air and into trees, houses, windows and other stationary objects.

Here's Gauthreaux's guide to watching the animation (CLICK HERE to view Gauthreaux's images):

"It shows several pulses of birds leaving the roost and moving toward the SE," he said. " At the beginning of the loop (CLICK HERE to view Gauthreaux's animation in a loop), one can see the echoes from showers moving eastward, and the first burst of birds appears about 04:17 GMT on 1 Jan 2011 or 22:26 CST on 31 Dec 2010. Another pulse (exodus) occurs at 04:55 GMT, and another starts at 05:16 GMT.

"A good pulse begins at 05:59, or 1 minute before midnight, and many of the birds move toward the SE-SSE. Winds at this time are blowing strongly from the NW.