This is that special time of year when birds in the Yukon get plastered by eating fermented berries. The drunks birds fall out of trees, fly into objects, and pass out. To help, local environmentalists have set up a special holding tank where they can sober up.
After the first frost, many berries will ferment, like the mountain ash berry. Birds, such as the Bohemian waxwing, are currently eating copious amounts in anticipation of winter. In turn, they get intoxicated from eating these berries and get quite drunk. The problem is compounded when the birds fill their expandable esophagi with even more berries, where the fruit continues to ferment.
The effects of alcohol is pretty much the same on birds as it is on humans. Tipsy birds fly erratically and have a hard time avoiding obstacles, especially shiny ones like windows. They fall out of trees, where they become vulnerable to predators (in fact, some savvy cats have learned to camp-out underneath certain trees).
To help, Environment Yukon is asking residents to bring birds they find drunk or unconscious to its animal health unit near the Whitehorse airport so they can sober up safely. The birds are placed in a hamster cage until they're ready to be released back into the wild.
"We just make sure that they're comfortable and quiet, and then hopefully they get to be released," says Meghan Larivee of the Environment Yukon's animal health unit in a PRI article — but not before they do the bird equivalent of walking a straight line. "We do little test runs to make sure that they can coordinate themselves before we release them."
Image: Randen Pederson/CC.