ABOVE: Site of the Arkansas bird crash. BELOW: F-16s attempt to force two cranes to land.

BEEBE, ARK ( — The nation’s birds have been grounded pending an investigation into a massive blackbird crash in Arkansas over the weekend.
As many as 5,000 blackbirds died when they plunged from the sky into the town of Beebe, Ark., late New Year’s Eve. While investigators have ruled out terrorism, they are still searching for clues and took the unprecedented step of grounding the country’s nearly six billion birds until the cause is known and, hopefully, addressed.
“It’s a nightmare, admittedly,” conceded U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Dean Thomas. “Birds outnumber Americans 20 to one, and we have birds on every surface right now – streets, parks, lakes, front lawns, my head. But until we know what caused the Arkansas tragedy, it’s not safe to let them go back up.”
Stranded avians have been advised to find alternate transportation to get to their destinations. Bus lines and car rental agencies, however, say they are unable to help the birds, “because they are birds.”
Due possibly to a language barrier, birds had ignored the flying ban until early Sunday, when two F-16 fighters were scrambled out of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas after radar picked up a pair of cranes violating the no-fly zone over San Antonio. Despite repeated pleas, the birds refused to land and were shot down for their own protection.

Since then, the winged creatures have obeyed the ban, but found life on the ground difficult. Traffic signals, for instance, appear to confuse them, and reports abound of birds being run over by cars, trucks, and even pedestrians who are unable to avoid them. Increasingly noticeable is their persistent disregard for private property, personal space, and accepted forms of individual waste disposal.
“It is eery to look up in the sky and not see a single bird,” said Tina Viego, a waitress in Middlesboro, Tenn. “But the fact that my shoes are now covered in bird shit kind of takes the mystery out of it all. ”
Birdwatchers, however, were thrilled by the rare chance to see certain species up close.
“In 40 years of searching, I had never seen a plain-capped Starthroat,” said amateur ornithologist Neville Fink, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “Today I stepped on two of them. Amazing.”
While millions of birds fly into picture windows each year, they generally have a strong safety record and fatal mass crashes are rare, aviation experts say. In the Beebe disaster, bird debris was strewn over a two-kilometer area and there were no known survivors, making interviews impossible. Miraculously, no one was killed on the ground.
The bird wreckage has been sent to government labs for analysis and officials have speculated the disaster may have been caused by hail, lightning, stress, or, because it was New Year’s Eve, alcohol.
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