Dead birds, fish update: Could the mass die-offs be a case of over-reporting?
The first story widely reported was of thousands of blackbirds found dead in Arkansas. It happened on a slow news day, which may have played a part in the extensive coverage. Then, there were reports of 2 million fish dead in Chesapeake Bay, more dead fish in Vietnam, and 40,000 dead crabs in the UK. There were also reports of dead fish and birds in Louisiana, Nashville, Tennessee, Brazil, New Zealand and Sweden.
Click here for an updated story with the latest information on the mass animal deaths, including information on what may have caused the thousands of dead crabs to wash ashore in the UK.
Should we be worried that the world is coming to an end?
Because of all the dead birds seemingly turning up all over the world some are jokingly calling it “aflockalypse.”
Bloggers and conspiracy theorists are suggesting the start of a biblical plague. One biblical scholar, Harold Camping, has already predicted the end of the world for May 21, 2011. Some of his followers are wondering if the bird and fish kills could be a precursor to Armageddon.
But biologists say that these massive die-offs are common and are seldom connected.
Could we be hearing more about mass bird and fish kills because there is more reporting of the kills in the media?
Yes. Whereas dead fish washing up on a shore in New Zealand might not ordinarily make worldwide news, it is making news because of the other cases. It may be a bit of a snowball effect. More cases of dead birds and dead fish get reported because more cases of dead birds and dead fish are being reported. The Internet, including Facebook and Twitter, have meant that more people are reporting on incidents that otherwise would go unreported.
According to the Associated Press, massive kills happen on the average of every other day somewhere in North America. But there is generally not a tendency to link them together as there have in these most recent cases.
What causes the mass die-offs?
Scientists say a variety of causes including disease, parasites, and some unusual causes. Scientists believe that New Years fireworks may have caused the 3,000 bird deaths in Arkansas. But the mystery of what caused other mass bird and fish deaths have remained a mystery.
The USGS has logged 95 mass animal deaths over the past eight months but that scientists believe that is a dramatic undercount, according to the AP.
Click here to view the USGS’s latest map with the incidents of bird and fish deaths and the latest findings of what caused the deaths. If you look back in the USGS’s archive, you can see how common the mass-kills are.