Police: Birds are drunk, crashing into things

According to police in Gilbert, Minnesota, birds in the area are flying into things including windshields and trees because the berries they're eating have fermented earlier than usual and the birds have not yet migrated south.

Posted: Oct 6, 2018 3:01 PM
Updated: Oct 6, 2018 3:33 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.

"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: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 821507

Reported Deaths: 10135
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin96935704
Cuyahoga81526972
Hamilton60913438
Montgomery41445399
Summit33096726
Lucas29981591
Butler29513227
Stark24608400
Warren18792139
Lorain17916207
Mahoning16710335
Lake15255135
Clermont15053104
Delaware1374277
Licking12595132
Trumbull12352301
Fairfield1211380
Greene11532132
Medina11033165
Clark10557264
Wood9901154
Allen9481126
Portage8802105
Miami880173
Richland8748116
Marion7305113
Tuscarawas7095174
Columbiana7047124
Pickaway699850
Wayne6729162
Muskingum665342
Erie5866117
Hancock537090
Ross526087
Scioto514862
Geauga478255
Darke456089
Ashtabula437268
Union429228
Lawrence428951
Mercer423387
Sandusky419062
Seneca411755
Auglaize410959
Huron409138
Shelby408521
Jefferson400466
Belmont392840
Washington367940
Putnam363672
Athens36229
Madison337928
Knox334922
Ashland329138
Fulton324243
Defiance317078
Crawford311968
Preble310034
Brown294419
Logan291829
Ottawa280534
Clinton278143
Williams268966
Highland261318
Jackson255243
Guernsey239425
Champaign239227
Fayette224529
Morrow22194
Perry220517
Holmes217562
Henry208847
Hardin203032
Coshocton197120
Van Wert196244
Wyandot189949
Gallia189126
Adams165515
Pike163416
Hocking161923
Carroll148016
Paulding139021
Noble117540
Meigs102421
Monroe95227
Harrison8578
Morgan78227
Vinton65613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Lima
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 26°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events