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MPR News

'Tis the season for drunken waxwings

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Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwings eat berries and other fruit, which can sometimes get them in trouble.
Courtesy of birdchick.com

If you look out your back window and see a bird that just doesn't look quite right, it may be a cedar waxwing and it may be drunk. 

These birds eat a lot of berries, and this time of year — especially with the extended run of warm weather — the berries have begun to ferment. The fermented berries can intoxicate and even kill the birds.

"Birdchick" Sharon Stiteler says she's been a sober ride for more than one drunk waxwing in her life. She says usually you just let the birds sleep it off and they're fine.

Drunk waxwings, which you usually see in spring and fall, are in danger of dying from running into windows, or being eaten by predators. And if they eat too many berries too fast, their metabolism doesn't have time to process it and they essentially die from alcohol poisoning.

That's likely what happened to the 10 dead waxwings found near an MPR News listener's crabapple tree this week. While 10 dead birds is on the extreme side, Stiteler says it's not unheard of.

To hear more about waxwings from the Birdchick, which she describes as looking like "female cardinals wearing too much makeup," and snowy owl migration across the state, listen to the audio above.