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Birds: they’re just like us!  

Tim Nelson
October 04, 2018

With the temperature (theoretically) dropping, it’s getting to be the time of year where migratory birds from cooler climates start to prepare for the journey to warmer southern weather. But from the sound of a recent police statement, the winged residents of one Minnesota community are throwing one last big rager before heading south for the winter.

“The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” Gilbert PD Chief Ty Techar wrote in a statement published on Facebook earlier this week. That’s right, folks: birds are getting drunk and behaving badly.

It’s not a horror movie plot point or a forewarning of the apocalypse (we hope), but the result of an unexpected interaction between weather patterns and avian diets. Parts of Minnesota are experiencing their fall frost a little earlier in the season, which means that the berries these birds munch on have fermented faster than normal. Younger birds with weaker livers can’t process the toxins very efficiently, which explains their loutish behavior.

Even though they aren’t chugging Everclear, describes their intoxicated behavior is readily apparent to astute observers. “They’ll be flying kind of erratically,” bird expert Matthew Dodder told the Washington Post. “We typically see them flying lower than usual through traffic. They’re just careless and they’re not looking for cars or other obstacles.” He adds that robins, cedar waxwings and thrushes are the biggest potential boozebags given their berry-heavy diet compared to other species, and their attempt to fatten up before flying south can cause them to get particularly sauced.

“They just get sloppy and clumsy,” Dodder says. “They have actually fallen out of trees on occasion.”

The sloppiness hasn’t gone unnoticed by Gilbert residents. The comments on the post are replete with tales of an unusual number of birds colliding with car windshields. One responder mentioned they’ve hit seven this week, making them a legitimate rival to US Bank Stadium when it comes to culling Minnesota’s avian population.

So how do you deal with a drunk bird? Put them in a drunk tank, essentially. Bob Sallinger of the Portland, Oregon Audobon Society told the Post that the organization “will hold them in captivity until they sober up and then set them free” whenever they find a bird hopped up on boozy berries.

Ultimately, Dodder implies that our feathered friends aren’t all that different from humans when it comes to coming back to life after a few too many drinks. “Sometimes, they just need a bit of time in a quiet setting to recover,” he said. Don’t we all.  

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