Birds Get Really, Really Drunk

By Christopher M. Stephens on Monday, August 12, 2013
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“I’ll stick with gin. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.” —Hawkeye, M*A*S*H

In A Nutshell

Human beings are not the only creatures in this world to drink up, sometimes spectacularly. Fruit-eating birds, namely cedar waxwings from North American woodlands, frequently encounter overripe berries with the alcohol content of strong cider. The results may be exceedingly absurd, and unfortunately, drunkenness can even lead to death for the birds involved.

The Whole Bushel

In the summer, berries may become overripe to the point where their alcohol content can cause avian intoxication. While the mushy fruits may not exactly be Château Barreyres, the makeshift cider appeals to birds and may cause waxwings and other fruit-eating songbirds to become totally intoxicated.

Consequences for serious public inebriation in humans usually involves a little stay in the drunk tank. For birds, it may be a death sentence. The songbirds often become inebriated in areas with human settlement, precisely where domestic cats may be found. Upon falling out of the trees, the birds may be quickly scooped up by the feather-stripping felines.

Birds seem to lack any “flying under the influence policy,” and the wasted, winged creatures may fly headlong into obstructions, resulting in death or injury. Birds also commonly die from outright alcohol poisoning. Just like human teenagers, it is often the young birds that overindulge.

If one is concerned about the plight of the birds on a property, placing bird netting to cover the dangerously seductive fruit and keeping cats indoors can help keep critically impaired feathered friends safer.

Show Me The Proof

Young birds ‘getting drunk’ on berries vets have warned
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)