Drunk Birds in Minnesota are Flying into Windows

Birds in the small northern Minnesota town of Gilbert are flying under the influence into windows, cars and sometimes, straight into the ground.

These so-called “berry benders” are happening because cedar waxwings, American robins and other birds are eating berries that have fermented due to an unusually early frost. The sugar in these berries has been transformed into alcohol, making it the equivalent of a human consuming an entire keg of beer.

“It appears that some birds are getting a little more ‘tipsy’ than normal,” Police Chief Ty Techar wrote in a statement posted on the Gilbert Police Department’s Facebook page. “Generally, younger birds’ livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds.” The Gilbert PD has received several reports of inebriated birds acting strangely.

The frost occurred before the birds typically migrate south for the winter, which is why so many of them ate the fermented berries, Techar wrote. To prepare themselves for this long journey, some birds fill up on berries as a way to store special, high-energy fat in their bodies.

Of course, the notion of drunk birds has spawned plenty of jokes.

“Drunk birds are totally a thing,” National Parks Service Ranger Sharon Stiteler told KMSP. “I’ve had to give sober rides to cedar wax wings from uptown.”

Even Police Chief Techar made fun of the situation in his statement, encouraging people to call the police if they noticed the following:

  • Angry Birds laughing and giggling uncontrollably and appearing to be happy.
  • The Roadrunner jumping in and out of traffic on Main Street.
  • Tweety acting as if he’s 10 feet tall and getting into confrontations with cats.

Techar added that it was unnecessary to call law enforcement about the birds since “they should sober up within a short period of time.”

But seriously, folks, what’s not so funny is that birds have lost their lives while under the influence. According to comments from Gilbert residents on the police department’s Facebook page, one woman hit (or was hit by) seven birds while driving one week, while another woman found three dead birds on her backyard deck. Another woman wrote that two birds flew into her windshield on her way to work and again on her way home.

More Cases of Drunk Birds

Gilbert is not the only town where birds are getting buzzed from eating fermented berries in the autumn. In fact, the Audubon Society in Portland, Ore., has a “drunk tank” for these birds.

“Sometimes they are picked up after crashing into windows. Others are just found disoriented on the ground,” Bob Sallinger, the group’s conservation director, told the Washington Post. “We will hold them in captivity until they sober up and then set them free.”

Up north in Canada’s Yukon Territory, animal welfare officers put drunk birds inside hamster cages until they sober up. “The reason that we might suspect the berries is because the birds come in with obvious tell-tale signs of red berries all over their face, and they often have their throats quite full of berries as well,” said Meghan Larivee, with the animal health unit of Environment Yukon.

Could early frosts and drunk birds become the new normal due to climate change?

“We have to look at longer term trends when speaking about climate change, but we are seeing some changes,” Larivee told National Geographic four years ago. Because of rising temperatures, she said “we also likely have longer autumns, which gives more time for berries to ferment, but still have early frost that allow sugars to be produced in berries early in the fall.”

Protecting Drunk Birds from Harm

A few years ago in Gilbert, Stiteler created what she called a “detox box” in which an inebriated waxwing was able to sober up. “Much like your drunk friend who sleeps on the couch, it threw up and felt better… I gave it some carbs and some water and it did the flight of shame home,” she told KMSP.

To help save the lives of these birds, Stiteler recommended that anyone who comes across an inebriated bird put it in a box in a dark place until it’s able to safely fly away. You might say this advice is for the birds – in a good way.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Becky Matsubara/Flickr

47 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

TY

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Barb S
Barb S2 months ago

Are the berries native? The bird's native? Seems like a good solution is to remove the berries!!

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Jeff I
Jeff I2 months ago

So many birds die from window strike per year. Windows need to be made with grids that birds can see. No excuse and the cost is to the owner of the glass; not to the poor birds who fly into them.

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Marge F
Marge F2 months ago

I saw this on the news. Thank you for posting.

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E Away J
E Away J2 months ago

Oh my.

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David C
David C2 months ago

thanks

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R2 months ago

thank you

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Frances Bell
Frances Bell2 months ago

...and make sure they have fresh water available. they need to flush out their kidneys before there's permanent damage. And.... a diet high in seeds for those species that don't naturally choose them in the wild is a very bad diet! This isn't funny.... it's just another man-made risk that could help drive bird species to extinction.

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Angeles Madrazo
Angeles M2 months ago

Having fun, ha, ha. Thank you

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Carole R
Carole R2 months ago

Happy birds in MN? They need to eat more seed.

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