Analysis of the “Dead Bird” Hysteria

Posted: January 6, 2011 in Pop Culture, Technology
Tags: , , , , , ,

A few people who read my blog asked me to write a piece on the “Dead Bird” phenomenon. I was hesitant at first because I really don’t know where I stand on the issue. While I am a rational thinker, and do believe there is a scientific explanation for the dead birds and fish (and now, dead crabs in the UK) that died en masse, there is still that tiny conspiracy mindset. Doing some preliminary research on the matter, I found a few theories running around the internet.

The scientific community and government affairs departments all hold steadfast that one of three things is to blame. One – the birds were spooked by New Years fireworks and, being unable to navigate in the night sky, subsequently ran into building thus causing their death. Two – the harsh winter left the birds and fish susceptible to disease and famine and thus killed them. At the same time. Three – a rouge thunderstorm sucked up the birds into the upper atmosphere–killing them–and then spit their bodies out.

I’m more apt to believe story one. I don’t for a minute believe story two. Story three may have some merit. I did some preliminary research and their was some atmospheric action the evening of Dec. 31st, but I am nowhere near qualified to make a judgment on what it was and what the effect on the bird population would have been.

My friends in the conspiracy blogosphere are going insane right now. I won’t even indulge you on the theories they have come up with. They are, for lack of a better word, retarded.

I’m not going to reiterate what thousands of other web blogs and articles have already told you on the subject. Nor am I going to indulge you with conspiracy fantasy. So what is this blog post about then?

My original intention of this blog was to analyze social trends. I may have slacked with a few of my blog posts in the past, but I am returning to my internet vision. I’m going to break down the (mass?) hysteria I am beginning to see. Using one of my favorite tools, Google Trends, I chronicled the terms associated with this event that were increasing, at an alarming rate, in frequency.

First off is the obvious. Below, we see search terms for “Dead Birds” and “Dead Fish” increasing around the time the stories broke. The graph on the top is search volume index, and the graph on the bottom is news story volume.  

 In comparison, here is the same search string with “Boehner“, the new Speaker of the House added.

 You can barely see any change in frequency the day he was sworn in, due to the exponentially higher frequency of the “Dead Birds” and “Dead Fish” search strings. Even news reference volume for Dead Birds beat out Boehner.

I also noted another startling trend. Google users think this is the end of the world. Analysis of “Rapture“, “Apocolypse“, and “End of the World“.

While there is no way to determine if the increase in volume is from the New Year, our proximity to 2012, or the Dead Birds, I think it is safe to assume the dead birds stories had something to do with this.

Also a new search term emerged. “Dead Birds in the Bible

But just to put your mind at ease, know this. Even with the End of the World on the threshold of mankind, it still has not captivated the American public like “Justin Bieber“.

I think that is the best proof that it is, in fact, the End of the World. See you all in hell.

[Edit: I got a ton of hits on this blog from search engines. Most of the serach terms were “Real reasons for birds” or “Scientific explination of Bird Death”. You won’t find that here. Please, visit a great AP Article that has all the facts.] 


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