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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The mysterious bird kill and Rachel Carson

The sedge is wither'd from the lake, And no birds sing. - from La Belle Dame sans Merci by Keats

That line from the Keats poem was the the inspiration for the title of the book Silent Spring. I was reminded of the book, which I read in college, by the recent news about the mysterious deaths of birds. The Guardian (Apocalypse now? Mystery bird deaths hit Louisiana) says that ...

Today it emerged that about 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings had been found dead in Louisiana .... the Louisiana bird die-off came just a few days after up to 5,000 blackbirds fell to earth in neighbouring Arkansas in the small town of Beebe .... Officials were still collecting bodies in Louisiana but have already examined those from the incident in Arkansas. They concluded that the birds had suffered internal trauma.

- Photograph: Liz Condo/AP

And Greenspace at the LA Times says (Dead birds falling from sky still mystify experts) ...

The U.S. Geological Service's website lists about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12. Five list deaths of at least 1,000 birds and another 12 show at least 500 dead birds. The largest was near Houston, Minn., where about 4,000 water birds died between Sept. 6 and Nov. 26 from infestations of various parasites.

- Photograph: Stephen B. Thornton /Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Here's a little about Silent Spring from Wikipedia ...

Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson .... The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement .... The New Yorker started serializing Silent Spring in June 1962 .... Silent Spring facilitated the ban of the pesticide DDT in 1972 in the United States.

The book documented detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson said that DDT had been found to cause thinner egg shells and result in reproductive problems and death. She also accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically.

Silent Spring has been featured in many lists of the best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. In the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Nonfiction it was at #5, and it was at #78 in the conservative National Review. Most recently, Silent Spring was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine .....

In response to the publication of Silent Spring and the uproar that ensued, U.S. President John F. Kennedy directed his Science Advisory Committee to investigate Carson's claims. Their investigation vindicated Carson's work, and led to an immediate strengthening of the regulation of chemical pesticides.

I don't know what's causing the bird kill but I suspect it has to do with us, whether directly or indirectly :(


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bird Virus in Japan related?

9:01 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thaaks for the link.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Brittany said...

I think it is pesticide related. All of the other explanations are idiotic. Birds don't fly at night. If fireworks killed the birds then there would be dead birds everywhere.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read something a year or so ago about these mysterious bird kills. The stuff I read, which, I can't find now, seems to say they almost foretell natural disasters, I never bookmarked it because it was just an interesting passing story. Has anyone else read something like this?

6:22 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I think you're right about it not being fireworks. I read somewhere that an ornithologist at Cornell said he thought someone may have set an explosion near those birds, which can sleep in large numbers, in order to scare of kill them. I don't know if that could explain all the different bird kills, though, not to mention the fish that also recently were found dead.

12:15 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


I've read that too somewhere. They do have abilitites to sense some things we can't, like magnetic north.

12:19 AM  

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