My friend Mark sent me to an excellent article over at National Geographic that explains all of the recent mass bird deaths people have been freaking out about. Is it the Apocalypse? Do we need to call Kirk Cameron?! Was 2012 a typo and the Mayans meant 2011?!?!

Nope. Turns out it’s normal, and the media decided to hype it up:

But the in-air bird deaths aren’t due to some apocalyptic plague or insidious experiment—they happen all the time, scientists say. The recent buzz, it seems, was mainly hatched by media hype.

At any given time there are “at least ten billion birds in North America … and there could be as much as 20 billion—and almost half die each year due to natural causes,” said ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.

But what causes dead birds to fall from the sky en masse? The Arkansas case points to two common culprits: loud noises and crashes.

What follows is a more in depth explanation that I, as a biologist, found interesting. I was content knowing skepticism had prevailed once again… until I made the mistake of reading the comments. Emphasis mine:

?Now that the evil media brought falling dead birds to our attention I ask why hasn’t NG ever done a documentary on this ‘common’ occurrence that apparently the general population knows nothing about? It is strange that so many of us have not witnessed birds dropping from the sky at a fireworks show. World firework competitions are held every year in my area and not one bird has died from blunt force trauma. I know wind turbines are deadly for birds and bats and solutions are being examined. I remember a robin hitting the window one day… it was stunned and it took awhile, but he eventually flew away… obviously a lucky one.

“Alfred Hitchcock knew a thing or two! Birds don’t fall from the sky! We’ve been setting off fireworks for 235 years and this has NEVER happened!!! Wake up America! This is just another government compromise for terror! Are we going to wait until PEOPLE start dropping dead in the streets? Get A grip”

“What else did she say that ya’ll aren’t printing? What’s up with this story? “Birds just die all the time, no big!!” Well, they don’t fall from the sky all the time. And our global environment isn’t poisoned all the time like it was with this gulf spill made worse by corexit. Then you’ve got cell masts and communications technology that has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and dead birds and health problems surrounding cell masts.
What’s the deal here, National Geo? I subscribe and love your articles and photos.. You’re one of the best. But printing garbage like this really makes me lose faith. I thought, Oh good! National Geographic did a story on this. Then I read it and felt very frustrated.
Birds do not fall en masse out of the sky all the time. It does not happen. Does Mr. Whatsit from the Audobahn society think we’re all stupid?
Do you?”

Yes, yes I do.

I was about to lament that there was no hope, but as I was writing this post, this comment appeared:

almost all of theses skeptical comments are more irrational than unexplained mass animal death. Little creatures are most susceptible to minute events. Your anecdotal evidence that “i’ve never heard of this” or “this has never happened” has zero weight in the real world of animal life. You ignore basic facts of animal life that has happened since thousands of years before your ignorance was formed and insist there must be something sinister happening.

your tinfoil hats reflecting sunlight probably kill more birds through disorientation than any of your made up fantasies.

One out of 25 people being sane is good, right? …Right?