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TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) — Researchers have an alternative explanation for the “raining fish” that fell from the sky in Texarkana, Texas, last year. 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 announcing 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 waterspout, moving over a body of water, sucks up small creatures such as fish and frogs, carrying them along until ultimately dropping them over land. The city of Texarkana officially attributed the “raining fish” to this phenomenon in December.
Strong winds created by tornadoes or hurricanes can also send small species raining from the sky, according to the Library of Congress. But Hill, who describes herself as a “Spooky Geologist and Strange Claims juster,” said her research found 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 she and Cropper 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, noting one major flaw that she and Cropper discussed with “bird researchers.”
“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,” Hill wrote. “But they had never seen it happen during active flight (we asked them). Therefore, this remains a weakness of the hypothesis.”
Texarkana Regional Airport officials, however, did note the presence of cormorants around the time of the storm on Dec. 29, 2021, Hill said.
Hill and Cropper’s findings were published in the Fortean Times magazine, a British monthly which focuses on “news, reviews and research on strange phenomena and experiences, curiosities, prodigies and portents,” according to its subscription page.
“You’ll need a sense of adventure, curiosity, natural scepticism [sic] and a good sense of humour [sic],” the site warns.