Drunk birds: An experts explains how to spot it and prevent it

It appears some of our feathered friends have been partying a little too hard. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there have been a few reports of drunk birds. While initially that may sound like a hoot, it can have deadly consequences. 

"Sometimes they hit things, sometimes you'll see them fall over like they've had a bit too much to drink," said wildlife biologist Todd Schneider with the Georgia DNR. 

Schneider says this time of year folks are more likely to see inebriated birds who are gobbling up berries.

"Berries with high-sugar content, things like dogwood berries, holly berries," said Schneider.

Normally, the berries are a good source of food, but when the fruit starts to rot, that is when a bird can get inebriated.

"It's basically fermentation, just like you're brewing beer. It's bacteria, yeast, or microorganisms that cause a chemical reaction, and converts sugars in the fruits into ethyl alcohol. So it's basically the same as us drinking alcohol," said Schneider.


While any birds that eat fruit can feel the effects of the alcohol, DNR says they are mostly seeing it happen to American robins and cedar waxwings. Waxwings typically live in the northern part of the country and southern Canada, but often migrate to Georgia in the winter.

Whether it is the love of the berries, or just being on vacation, they seem to party a bit too much.

"They'll absolutely gorge themselves. It's worse than our Thanksgiving meal," said Schneider.

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  (Todd Schneider / Georgia DNR)

Schneider says it is not hard to tell which ones are under the influence.

"When they fly, they're a little uncoordinated, they run into windows, especially picture windows with reflective surfaces, so they can see the sky. Sometimes they'll be on a perch, on a limb, and tip over," said Schneider.

Schneider says people should not get too freaked out if they see some birds acting a little tipsy, not all of them get drunk, and it will not impact their overall population.

Schneider says something people may want to think about is what they plant in their yards. Plants like Nandina, also known as heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, is a berry-bearing plant that is often used in landscaping and draws cyanide from the soil. As a result, the bright red fruit is toxic to birds and some other animals.