Raining Texarkana fish came from nervous birds, study says

TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A pair of researchers has an alternative explanation for the “raining fish” phenomenon last year in Texarkana that draw national fascination.

According to a study conducted by a pair of independent researchers, it was not a waterspout that dumped fish across a four-mile swath of Texarkana on December 29, 2021. It was nervous birds.

“We are fairly confident we determined the factors that led to fish falling across this area of ​​Texas: A flock of cormorants (and possibly other birds) disgorged their recently consumed meals of small shad while in the air or perhaps during takeoff,” geologist Sharon A. Hill said in a blog post sharing the results of her research, conducted alongside Australian author Paul Cropper.

At the time, the raining fish were believed to be the result of a rare meteorological phenomenon in which a water spout moving over water sucks up small creatures such as fish and frogs, carrying them along until they lose steam before dropping their stunned passengers. The city of Texarkana attributed the raining fish to this phenomenon at the time.

Strong winds created by tornadoes or hurricanes can also send small species raining from the sky, according to the Library of Congress. But there were no such weather events recorded that day in that area, although there were intense thunderstorms at the time.

Hill, who describes herself as a “Spooky Geologist and Strange Claims Adjuster,” said their research found that there was no evidence that a waterspout swept the fish up and deposited them over Texarkana. In fact, Hill says, there is evidence the fish had been partially digested.

This is one of the reasons Hill says it is strongly suspected that cormorants had eaten the fish and then regurgitated them. Cormorants are known to regurgitate their food but the reason for that is unknown.

Hill acknowledges the theory is not foolproof.

“We were also well aware of the habit of these fish-eating birds to release their stomach contents either to quickly fly away or to feed their young. This was a known and common behavior that had been observed by bird researchers. But they had never seen it happen during active flight (we asked them). Therefore, this remains a weakness of the hypothesis.”

They say the Texarkana Regional Airport officials did note the presence of cormorants around the time of the storm on Dec. 29, 2021.

While studying the phenomenon, Hill and Cropper say in addition to no evidence of a waterspout during this time that there is no other human-related fish distribution via aircraft or by hand was plausible.


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