Birds in Minnesota keep crashing into things and police think it's because they're drunk

Robins, cedar waxwings and other birds in Gilbert, Minnesota, are flying into windshields, bumping into tree...

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 12:57 PM
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 12:57 PM

Robins, cedar waxwings and other birds in Gilbert, Minnesota, are flying into windshields, bumping into trees and looking mighty disoriented.

Police there say there's no need to worry -- the birds are just a little drunk.

Animals

Birds

Life forms

Continents and regions

Midwestern United States

Minnesota

North America

The Americas

United States

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Law enforcement

Policing and police forces

"It appears some birds are getting a little more 'tipsy' than normal," Gilbert Police Chief Ty Techar wrote this week in a Facebook post.

No, the town's birds aren't downing worm-flavored margaritas. Techar believes their confused state is the result of eating berries that have fermented earlier than usual due to an early frost.

"Many birds have not migrated south, so it appears to be more prevalent than in past years," he said. "Younger birds' livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds."

Is this true? Are the birds really drunk?

Yes, said Anna Pidgeon, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin's Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, who notes it's not a rare phenomenon.

"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," she said.

Robins and cedar waxwings rely primarily on fruit and are more susceptible to "getting drunk," said Pidgeon. (Yes, that's really her name.)

Getting intoxicated can be quite dangerous for them, she said.

"(They) lose their coordination, they lose their natural ability to escape predators -- including poor judgment when it comes to flying."

The birds can also get alcohol poisoning.

Pidgeon recommends that anyone who finds a woozy bird should put it a dark, safe place -- such as a shed or a cardboard box -- until it recuperates and can fly without crashing into things. Drawing blinds can also help protect confused birds that may try to fly into windows, she said.

During mass migrations, young, naïve birds often collide with windows, getting concussions or breaking their necks. That, Pidgeon said, is the bigger problem.

"Relative to other sources of fatality of birds, alcohol poisoning isn't a huge risk," she said. "It's very short term."

Expert: No, it has more to do with migration

But Laura Erickson, author of the "National Geographic Pocket Guide to Birds of North America," said most of what people are seeing in northern Minnesota are not drunk birds at all.

She said she's gotten hundreds of calls and emails from people who say they've seen birds running into cars and homes. But none of those birds, Erickson said, has been the fruit-eating kind.

Instead, she said, they're yellow-rumped warblers and sparrows migrating through Minnesota. So far this fall the state is seeing an especially heavy flow of birds passing through, flying closer to the ground in search of food, she said.

"There may be some intoxicated birds up in Gilbert, but this (migration) is so widespread right now," said Erickson, who lives in Minnesota. "This is precisely the time of year when we get our peak migration of sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers."

But what about the poor drunk birds in Gilbert?

Techar, the police chief, said not to be alarmed. The birds will just sleep it off.

"There is no need to call law enforcement about these birds," he said, "as they should sober up within a short period of time."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312521

Reported Deaths: 5498
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion42641849
Lake27152455
Allen18010298
Elkhart17177221
St. Joseph16799229
Hamilton13011167
Vanderburgh9751120
Tippecanoe858727
Porter827986
Johnson6389165
Hendricks6098157
Vigo608384
Monroe536750
Clark515077
Madison5060122
Delaware4905103
LaPorte465595
Kosciusko462339
Howard344277
Warrick325672
Bartholomew316863
Floyd316277
Wayne307770
Cass299931
Marshall299144
Grant272550
Noble255046
Hancock253852
Henry247537
Boone244554
Dubois237931
Dearborn219030
Jackson215534
Morgan210843
Knox187819
Gibson186925
Shelby182155
Clinton180321
DeKalb177831
Lawrence177648
Adams168222
Miami162614
Wabash162521
Daviess156443
Fayette149234
Steuben147113
Jasper144412
Harrison142924
LaGrange142630
Montgomery142127
Whitley137114
Ripley132115
Huntington127410
Decatur126143
Putnam124627
Randolph124519
Wells124429
White123222
Clay122523
Posey122116
Jefferson118816
Scott109020
Greene102653
Jay99013
Sullivan96416
Starke92021
Jennings85314
Fulton84518
Spencer8378
Perry82521
Fountain7798
Washington7527
Franklin69927
Carroll68613
Orange67328
Vermillion6243
Owen6087
Tipton57627
Parke5706
Newton56312
Rush5438
Blackford53412
Pike50919
Pulaski39515
Martin3585
Brown3424
Benton3402
Crawford2941
Union2702
Switzerland2575
Warren2382
Ohio2317
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Angola
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 40°
Huntington
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Decatur
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
Mostly Cloudy Black Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events