It's raining birds and frogs: Animal phenomena are surprisingly common but why do they happen?

Worm showers, falling fish – these animal phenomena are surprisingly common. But why do they happen?

A A A

In Hitchcockian scenes last week, thousands of birds fell suddenly from the sky within a one-mile area of Beebe, near Little Rock, Arkansas. Most were found to have died from internal bleeding, but nobody has been able to come up with a convincing explanation for their dramatic demise, although a lightning strike, high-altitude hail and fireworks are some of the more rational suggestions. Then, earlier this week, another 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings were found dead on a short stretch of highway, only 300 miles south of Beebe.

"It's raining cats and dogs" might be a common idiom to describe a heavy downpour, but a literal shower of animals is not as uncommon as we may think.

Just yesterday 40,000 devil crabs washed up on the Kent coast, thought to be the result of Britain's coldest December in 120 years.

There is a long history in the animal kingdom of mysterious mass behaviour and group deaths, and while some can be readily explained, others leave even the experts scratching their heads.

Falling fish

This is perhaps the most common occurrence of "raining animals". Most recently, Lajamunu, a town in Australia, reported thousands of fish falling from the sky last February. Lajamanu sits on the edge of the Tanami Desert, hundreds of miles from the closest lake and even further from the coast. The explanation? When winds are strong enough, particularly in thunderstorms, small whirlwinds and mini-tornadoes can form, which pick up fish when travelling over water, carrying them for miles, before dropping their peculiar cargo on top of baffled populations.

Raining frogs

Immortalised in a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia, the explanation behind raining frogs is similar to that of fish. In another fairly common occurrence, horrified residents of Rakoczifalva, Hungary received a frog shower in a thunderstorm last June. In the Bible's Book of Exodus, God casts down a rain of frogs on the Egyptians for their refusal to free the Israelites, leading to it becoming a popular narrative device when exploring themes of forgiveness and redemption, such as in Magnolia.

Plague of locusts

Australia is currently in the midst of a serious locust problem, with billions of the insect threatening to be a major nuisance. The warm, wet weather during their last summer meant that three generations of locusts were born, each one up to 150 times larger than the previous generation. They are now hatching and entire departments have been set up in a bid to limit damage to crops and general interference with society.

Worm shower

In 1872, worms were reported falling in Somerville, Massachusetts; in 1877 in Christiana, Norway, and in 1969 in the Cotswolds. In 2007, a woman crossing the road in Jennings, Louisiana, experienced large clumps of tangled, live worms falling from the sky. The answer to this phenomenon may lie in the waterspout seen less than five miles away in Jennings, suggesting the vortex sucked up the worms before dumping them on the unsuspecting victim.

Beached whales

A group of beached whales is a sad but not uncommon sight and can occur in groups of up to 300. While cases have been reported all over the world, scientists are yet to ascertain why they become stranded. One main theory is rough weather, another is the disturbance of echolocation, possibly by interference from sound produced by human activities at sea, such as military sonar, with the whales' strong social bond meaning they follow each other to their deaths. New Zealand has the world's highest rate of strandings, with 5000 recorded since 1840.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Flat out: Michael Flatley will return to the stage in his show Lord Of The Dance
Michael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape