Canada’s birds get tipsy on fermented berries, then sober up in drunk tanks

It might sound weird, but it’s not ridiculous – birds in Canada’s far north get tipsy from fermented berries, forcing Environment Yukon to set up a bird drunkenness pool.

The birds, predominantly Bohemian waxwings, fly into windows and walls after eating mountain ashberries that have been fermented by frost. The berries are found on mountain ash, a popular species that people plant on lawns and in backyards.

“What happens at this time of year is that the berries ferment after the freeze and the birds actually get a little intoxicated and actually get drunk from eating these berries,” Meghan Larivee of Environment Yukon’s Animal Health Division told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “So they’re flying around, but they’re not that good at avoiding obstacles. Opening windows is not uncommon.”

The birds fatten up on the berries so that they can survive the coming cold.

Larivee said people who find small birds drunk or passed out can call them or take them to Environment Yukon, where they will be put in a hamster cage “so they can sober up until they can be released”.

An Environment Yukon team recently found three drunk Bohemian waxwings, but two died of serious injuries after being flown on hard surfaces. The third sobered up after a few hours and survived.

A pine grouse also showed signs of poisoning and was not doing well in the Yukon Environment, Larivee said, so the bird was moved to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve where it is improving.

A 2012 study found that waxwings have larger livers that allow them to eat fermented berries, CTV News reported. But the birds exaggerate and overwhelm their livers.

The Yukon with around 34,000 inhabitants is 483,450 square kilometers – larger than the state of California – and lies between Alaska and the Northwest Territories.

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