Birds getting drunk on berries are causing concern in this small town

The birds in Gilbert, Minnesota, have been behaving strangely and causing a ruckus all over town. Residents have spotted them flying into cars, crashing into the windows of their homes and acting disoriented.

It turns out that the birds’ bizarre behavior is due to drunkenness. No, they haven’t been guzzling cocktails. Birds that eat berries, such as robins and cedar waxwings, have been feasting on fruit that fermented earlier than usual due to an early frost in the area.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon (which has been recorded elsewhere in North America, as well as in the United Kingdom) is dangerous for our avian friends. Anna Pidgeon, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin’s department of forest and wildlife ecology, told WTMJ in Milwaukee that the drunken birds are more likely than their sober counterparts to crash into windows and sustain a concussion or break their necks.

“(They) lose their coordination, they lose their natural ability to escape predators — including poor judgment when it comes to flying,” she said.

cedar waxwing photo
Flickr | fishhawk

In Portland, Oregon, this is a seasonal occurrence that the local Audubon Society knows well. “We get in birds into our Wildlife Care Center in the fall that are drunk on fermenting berries,” Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the chapter in Portland, told The Washington Post. “Sometimes they are picked up after crashing into windows. Others are just found disoriented on the ground. We will hold them in captivity until they sober up and then set them free.”

If you find an intoxicated bird that is struggling, Pidgeon recommends putting the bird in a safe, dark space until it can fly properly again.

Calling your local wildlife rescue center for advice is also a good idea if you find a bird in distress. Local rescue organizations are familiar with migration patterns and other specific challenges that wildlife is facing where you live.

american robin photo
Flickr | Becky Matsubara

Meanwhile, though it’s a tough spot for the birds, there is some humor to be found in the situation.

The Gilbert Police Department took to Facebook to explain what’s happening with the birds and bring a little levity to the whole thing in the process:

“The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying into window, cars and acting confused,” the post reads.

“It appears that some birds are getting a little more ‘tipsy’ than normal,” the post explained. “Younger birds’ livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds.”

The post went on to say that though residents are concerned, there is no need to contact the police, as the birds should “sober up within a short period of time.”

They joked that residents should call the police, however, if they see any famous cartoon birds misbehaving, such as “Bigbird operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner” or “Woodstock pushing Snoopy off the doghouse for no apparent reason.”