Discover Nature NotesMore posts

Intoxicated Wildlife

Dec 26, 2017

Like some holiday celebrations, birds and other wildlife can find their surroundings overripe for intoxication.

You're most likely to see cedar waxwings in this condition. This usually occurs in spring, when warming days cause last year's berries to ferment. Following lunch at a favorite berry bush, members of a cedar waxwing flock sometimes tumble from perches, bump into each other, and fly into things. This usually lasts a few minutes, and then, if they survive their dangerous antics, they fly away.

Robins, pigeons and even insects are occasionally observed in what looks like an inebriated state. Bees find it impossible to fly after sipping overripe nectar. Wasps can become tipsy when feeding on rotten fruit. Falling to the ground, they buzz around on their backs for a few seconds while their rapid metabolism cleanses the alcohol from their systems.

Drunken wildlife is probably more common than we realize. There is no evidence, however, that they enjoy this condition and don't seem to do it deliberately. This impairment is a lesser known challenge in the wild.

Watch a flock of robins flying in circles in the video below courtesy of Rocza on YouTube.

Tipsy on Fermented Fruit

Are your backyard birds acting strange? Barbara Damrosch of The Washington Post provides some insight to the world of intoxicated wildlife and how fermented fruit is the culprit.

  • Fruit can become alcoholic in a number of ways. Sometimes in the fall, fruit matures too much and ferments. In the winter, cold concentrates a fruit’s sugar, which then breaks down and produces alcohol.
  • Although animal intoxication is often a naturally occurring event, it can put the imbiber at risk. Impaired birds sometimes fly into walls and windows, and they are vulnerable to predators, including house cats.
  • If you find drunk birds in your yard that seem to need help, set out water to drink to rehydrate them

Cedar_Waxwing_0088.jpg

Cedar Waxwing with berry
Cedar Waxwing with berry

Drunk birds

See how robins react after eating overripe berries in this video courtesy of Rocza on YouTube
See how robins react after eating overripe berries in this video courtesy of Rocza on YouTube

Recent Posts

Photo of a gravid Mississippi grass shrimp in an aquarium.

Missouri's Freshwater Shrimp

Aug 13, 2018

Shrimp in Missouri, Who Knew?: Two types of freshwater shrimp can be found in Missouri's lakes and rivers. One is common and one is rare. The Mississippi Grass shrimp is small and transparent. The female pictured is carrying her eggs attached to swimmerets beneath her abdomen. The Ohio shrimp are larger and were harvested along the Mississippi river for food in the 1800's. They are rare today. Missouri's freshwater shrimp are important to fish and other wildlife and may live in the waters where you fish and boat. Learn more about them in this week's Discover Nature Note.

common eastern bumblebee

Pollinator Power

Aug 06, 2018

OUR NEED FOR BEES:  Without them, our produce aisles would be mostly bare. With less of them, harvest sizes will shrink and prices will soar.  Bees are essential for many of the foods we eat and nutrients we need.  Native bumblebees are intentional pollinators that do the most important work.  Learn more about bees, how you can help, and the amazing diversity we have in St. Louis in this week's Discover Nature Note. (Pictured:  Common Eastern Bumblebee)

Great Horned Owl

Theater in the WILD

Jul 30, 2018

Theater in the Wild: Some of the biggest stars have graced its stage, and swallowed our bugs while singing, but often nature and wildlife have been an inspiring and entertaining part of the show. The Muny opera took shape 100 years ago between two giant oak trees in a natural bowl in Forest Park in St. Louis. Ol' man River Des Peres which runs through it caused early trouble in river city with a flood that washed the orchestra's instruments as far away as Carondelet.

Today, the river runs behind and below the theater offering audiences a chance to view wetland species. The trees surrounding the stage are part of the design for several musicals and are looked after with care. Squirrels, possums or raccoons may appear climbing lighting grids or wandering onto the stage at any moment during a show.

Just as in nature, there are free sets to enjoy the show in the nation's largest, greenest outdoor theater in one of our country's biggest urban parks. Learn more about Forest Park and nature's show in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Archive

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away

Recipes

You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes