Some birds just can't handle their alcohol. In Gilbert, Minnesota, police have been receiving reports of intoxicated behavior—bumping into trees, flying into windows—from the friends and neighbors of local robins and cedar waxwings. The big question for many was: who has been serving these birds too many beers? However, scientists quickly came forward with an explanation that has nothing to do with beers but everything to do with berries.
Anna Pidgeon, an aptly named associate professor at the University of Wisconsin's Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, explained that the birds are becoming intoxicated from alcohol fermented inside local berries due to an early frost in the region:
It's more typical in late winter, early spring when berries that have been on branches ferment due to the yeast that's on them.
‘Drunk birds’ reported in Gilbert, Minn. The likely cause: fermented berries https://t.co/uItCFcSS6s https://t.co/1JXvw0DYLn— Pioneer Press (@Pioneer Press)1538649807.0
"An early frost meant that berries had fermented ... and birds were eating them and getting drunk." https://t.co/CAxHypdjzz— Maureen O'Connor (@Maureen O'Connor)1538679677.0
The birds becoming drunk is actually far more dangerous to them than any humans around them, according to Pidgeon:
(They) lose their coordination, they lose their natural ability to escape predators -- including poor judgment when it comes to flying.
I know it's supposed to be funny that the birds are drunk, but I am feeling anxious for them, like they are me at e… https://t.co/U7XM1fKFQU— Mary Laura Philpott (@Mary Laura Philpott)1538672349.0
A flock of hundreds of migrating robins landed & got drunk on our pyracantha berries in Phnx. We spent 2 hrs scoopi… https://t.co/XDz9kozcMI— JoAnn Ross (@JoAnn Ross)1538672561.0
The drunk birds “just get sloppy and clumsy...they have actually fallen out of trees on occasion” and who can blame… https://t.co/4E16Ub2btt— Laura Helmuth (@Laura Helmuth)1538650018.0
Those who find a drunk bird near them, unable to fly, are advised to put it in a dark, safe place (like a cardboard box) until it's able to sober up. That having been said, drunkenness is low on the totem-poll of life-threatening situations for birds:
Relative to other sources of fatality of birds, alcohol poisoning isn't a huge risk. It's very short term.
A Minnesota town’s birds have been getting so drunk that the police department had to release a statement about the… https://t.co/4qBDsyXMpp— Grub Street (@Grub Street)1538665325.0
The Gilbert Police Chief issued a statement saying:
It appears some birds are getting a little more 'tipsy' than normal.' ... Many birds have not migrated south, so it appears to be more prevalent than in past years. Younger birds' livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds.
Hopefully the department will be able to handle this influx of public drunkenness.
"The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying… https://t.co/mthH41SRz8— Reema Amin (@Reema Amin)1538668956.0
tuuurnt https://t.co/GTem1bpGoU— VICE (@VICE)1538682420.0
Twitter was concerned for the birds...but also trying their best to stifle their laughter.
@PioneerPress They just need to fill their Bird Baths with some Coffee!! 🐦 🦅 🍺☕️— Hollywood’nt (@Hollywood’nt)1538706600.0
@maureenoco Have any of the birds been charged with a FUI?— LaDonna Scott (@LaDonna Scott)1538693098.0
@maureenoco Thirsty Thursday is for the birds am I right people???? 🙃— C Q (@C Q)1538690991.0
@JoAnnRoss We had the same problem one year with deer and fermenting peaches falling from our trees.— Dee Davis (@Dee Davis)1538755927.0
@VICE These birds like to party.— The_CLE_Machine (@The_CLE_Machine)1538697557.0
With enough time to sober up, these birds will be fine, and should continue their migration to the South posthaste. Once they get down there, they'll have some amazing stories to tell the other birds about Gilbert, Minnesota (aka Partytown, USA).
@MaryLauraPh I hope they will be okay. 🤔— (((Chana הנא))) (@(((Chana הנא))))1538701770.0