Woodpeckers eat fruit and berries along with their typical insect and nut diet. Sometimes birds like this fly into windows, or get stepped on, so he could have really been injured. So we decided that was the waxwing’s best chance of finding food and flockmates. All prices are in USD Copyright © 2020 Sweet-Seed Micro Batch Bird Feed. Waxwings eat insects and berries. The protective skins of overwintered fruits will often-times crack during a frost, exposing the natural sugars to the air, and to the naturally occurring airborne yeasts and bacteria. Since these birds are huge berry eaters, and some berries at this time in the year have fermented as they sit on the bush, drunk waxwings are an interesting occurrence. This phenomenon activates the fermentation process, turning the sugars within the fruits into carbon dioxide and alcohol. To do this, we looked on the e-bird website, where bird watchers report up-to-the-minute bird sightings. The bird indeed was trying unsuccessfully to fly and pushing its head into the ground. This was a healthy looking bird. There was just sort of an odd affect about him. So, we had to decide where to let him go where he had the best chance of finding 1) appropriate food (berries) and 2.) Cedar and other waxwings are known to gorge on fermented berries and other fruits, leading them to appear drunk. She was convinced the bird had been raised by humans. It was unable to stand and lurched around in a circle. National Wildlife Health Center tests showed that berries collected from a nearby Ilex shrub contained 800 ppm ethanol by wet weight: “enough to produce intoxication in these birds that could have resulted in compromised behavior and subsequent fatal trauma.” By Michele Wellard, Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator. You might be surprised to learn that this is common. You can get more from Mike (and Sweet-Seed) on twitter. There have been numerous reports, ranging back to the 1800’s, of Cedar Waxwings tumbling to the ground from trees and from atop buildings, seriously injuring or killing the birds. I’ve volunteered for a couple of bird hospitals and know enough to when a bird is in serious trouble. Update, December 11, 2014, on where the waxwing was released: During the winter, waxwings spend all their time in large flocks, but this one was found all alone. The Drunken Cedar Waxwing: Nature Being Nature. What can be done to protect the Cedar Waxwing from itself? Will Keeping Feeders Up Late in the Season Prevent Hummingbirds from Migrating. I immediately identified it as a Cedar Waxwing. These symptoms are also connected with head trauma in wild birds, so that was also a possibility. Yellow-rumped Warblers, that spend the winter farther north than most others eat berries and … They eat fruit such as cherries. Additionally, he also was in absolutely PERFECT feather, and he was in great body condition – upon palpating his breast muscle I could feel that he was almost fat, suggesting he’s been  having no trouble finding winter berries, and maybe even overindulged a bit. Some research has shown this alcohol level to be as high as 3.8%, approximately the same as a beer. In spring, frugivorous birds like waxwings and robins will sometimes feed on berries from the previous summer which have had months to lose moisture and allow the sugars to ferment. Love all the colors on the waxwing, the soft brown and gray, highlight by bright red waxy tips and yellow tail band. Above is a picture of our little drunkard. After all, this is a behavior that has evolved over time and is simply an example of nature being nature. With their diets being comprised of over 80% fruits and berries of nearly all shapes and sizes, it’s fair to say that Cedar Waxwings absolutely love their fruit. Sure enough, after two days in the ‘drunk tank’ – after some anti-inflammatories, lots of fluids,  and lots of free berries and worms from us, he started acting like a wild bird, completely scared of us and fluttering around and flying just like a normal wild bird. These symptoms are also connected with head trauma in wild birds, so that was also a possibility. They ate too many over-ripe berries from a Brazilian pepper tree in Los Angeles and died, some from ruptured livers and others from flying under the influence, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Ornithology.


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