Something strange is happening in Gilbert, Minnesota. Multiple birds have been witnessed crashing into buildings, trees, and windshield screens, apparently a bit tipsy.
“The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” the Gilbert Minnesota Police Department said in a statement released Tuesday.
So, what is causing all the commotion? It may be a combination of two things, police say. One, certain berries in the area are fermenting earlier than normal because of a premature frost. And two, many birds have not yet left for their yearly migration south.
This means that many birds are currently enjoying the fermented (read: alcoholic) fruit – and clearly feeling a little out of sorts as a result. Young birds are especially at risk because their livers cannot break down the fruits’ toxins quite as effectively as older birds.
As a consequence, many are struggling to coordinate their movements and react promptly to threats and predators. Hence, the number of birds hitting cars and buildings across the town.
The police department’s statement received several comments from locals with their own stories regarding the intoxicated birds.
“I know this post is a joke…but seriously…2 birds dove into my windshield both on the way to work and on the way home… I was wondering what was going on,” one Facebook user (and crash victim) commented.
“I had to slam on the breaks today for a pigeon flying directly at my windshield because I braked the bird only tapped my windshield and this was downtown,” said another.
But as hilarious as it sounds, not all birds make it unscathed. The fermented berries may cause alcohol poisoning and collisions can be deadly.
“I have a couple dead birds in my front yard because of them hitting my window. Also had one stuck in the front of my car,” said a third Facebook user.
In a 2012 paper published in the Journal of Ornithology, researchers performed necropsy examination on several flocks of Cedar Waxwings that had died after crashing into solid objects. They found that all birds had fed on over-ripe berries and displayed traces of ethanol in the liver and intestines.
“The cause of death in these birds was trauma that resulted from colliding with hard objects when flying under the influence of ethanol,” the researchers concluded.
The good news is that like anyone who has overindulged, the birds will sober up with time. If you do happen to come across an inebriated bird, experts recommend contacting an animal rescue or wildlife rehabilitation center.
But you don’t need to call the police. “There is no need to call law enforcement about these birds as they should sober up within a short period of time,” the statement continues. However, they would like you to get in touch if you see either of the following – “The Roadrunner jumping in and out of traffic on Main Street” or “Bigbird operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner.”
As bizarre as it sounds, the phenomenon of birds gorging on fermented berries is so widespread in the States that some cities (like Portland, Oregan) have their own “drunk tanks”, The Washington Post reports.