Reports of drunk and disorderly individuals in small Midwestern towns seldom make the Washington Post, but this police warning from Gilbert, Minnesota (population 1,790) did: “The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying into windows, cars, and acting confused. The reason behind this occurrence is certain berries we have in our area have fermented earlier than usual due to an early frost, which in turn has expedited the fermenting process. …There is no need to call law enforcement about these birds as they should sober up within a short period of time.”
The report encouraged citizens to report sightings of Heckle and Jeckle, Woodstock, the Roadrunner, Big Bird, Angry Birds, or Tweety, however.
Cedar waxwings have a reputation for inebriation because berries are an important part of their diet, and in autumn, berries can ferment on the vine. Robins and other thrushes are also known to overdo it on “spiked” berries. The idea of drunken wild birds seems funny, but when intoxicated, birds’ behavior can become risky. They fly erratically, fall out of trees and flop around or sleep on the ground. That means they become defenseless prey, and they are more prone to fly into things—windows, buildings, or cars, for example. But they can imbibe to the point of death, too. Necropsies of flocks of dead birds have found a toxic level of alcohol poisoning—from consuming fermented berries.
If you find a bird that appears to be drunk, or one that has survived a collision, put it in a safe place to see if it recovers on its own in an hour or two. If it seems to be injured, contact a Wildlife Rehabiltator. Call your state’s department of natural resources, or check this list.
Read the Washington Post story here.
Read the Gilbert, Minnesota, police report here.
About the Author
BirdWire is the free, twice-monthly e-newsletter from Bird Watcher’s Digest. We compile wild bird and birding-related news releases here on Out There With the Birds as they come in, and share a few of the most interesting and important with BirdWire subscribers on the first Saturday of each month. On the third Saturday of each month, BirdWire offers a bird-related quiz! Click here to subscribe to BirdWire »