Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Dead Birds In Kentucky After Ohio Train Derailment Disaster

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Dead Birds In Kentucky After Ohio Train Derailment Disaster Arkansas 2018

Does a photograph show a dozen birds that died in Kentucky from complications attributable to the February 2023 derailment of a train transporting toxic chemicals through neighboring Ohio? No, that's not true: While the photo is authentic, it was taken in April 2018 in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed to Lead Stories. The birds appeared to have died of natural causes.

The claim originated in the caption for a photo shared on Facebook on February 16, 2023. The caption read:

Maybe we should be concerned with what's going on In Ohio. These birds dropped de@d in Ky

Below is a screenshot of the post as it appeared at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2023-02-17 at 10.49.01 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken Fri Feb 17 14:49:01 2023 UTC)

These birds did not die following the train derailment disaster that occurred on February 3, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio.

A reverse image search revealed that the photo first appeared in an article published on April 9, 2018, by the Little Rock-based Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The article was titled, "Dead birds found in downtown Little Rock possibly intoxicated from fermented berries, expert says" (archived here).

In a February 17, 2023, email, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Chief of Communications Keith Stephens confirmed to Lead Stories that the newspaper's reporting was accurate. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette wrote that:

Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the carcasses scattered near the intersection of Main and Seventh streets are likely cedar waxwings, which feed almost exclusively on berries.

Rowe said Little Rock's warm days and cool nights may have caused berries in a nearby bush to ferment. When the birds eat these alcoholic berries, they become so intoxicated that they fall out of trees or off buildings and die, she said.

She added that the city's skyscrapers and reflective windows, which migrating birds often crash into, could also be a factor.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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