Bird Deaths Examined; Plus, Fraud and Autism-Vaccine Claims

We examine wider environmental pressures on avian populations. Plus, a look at the autism-vaccine connection and fraud.

Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Brandon Doss examines dead red-winged blackbirds in Little Rock, Ark., Jan. 3, 2011. (AP)

For a couple of crazy days after New Year’s, that carpet of dead blackbirds in Arkansas looked like a weird sign from the heavens. There were five thousand blackbirds laid out dead on the streets and lawns and rooftops.

People wondered if it was swamp gas, lightning, some chemical hell, Armageddon. It turns out it was probably fireworks and a blackbird freak-out.

We’ve got top ornithologists here to look at how and why birds die en masse.

And later in the show we look at news that the autism-vaccine connection was a case  of straight-up fraud.

-Tom Ashbrook

**Read the 2010 “State of the Birds” report, part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations.


Kevin McGowan, ornithologist and researcher, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He researches the social behavior of birds.

Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society.

Karen Rowe, coordinator of the Bird Conservation Program at the Wildlife Management Division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Closing segment:

The scientific world is in agreement — no link has been found between vaccines and autism. But for thousands of parents, the fear is there. It was seeded by a discredited study by a British doctor in 1998. His research was known to be bad science, but now the British Medical Journal is going further, accusing Dr. Andrew Wakefield of committing “deliberate fraud.” We examine the controversy.


Max Wiznitzer, associate professor of pediatric neurology, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Roula Choueiri, neurodevelopmental pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

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