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Intoxicated Wildlife

Dec 28, 2020

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. Should you observe intoxicated wildlife, you can provide some water for re-hydration.

Cedar Waxwing Fun Facts

  • Cedar waxwings are most likely to ingest over-fermented berries. In fact, the majority of a cedar waxwing’s annual diet is berries and small fruits.
  • The cedar waxwing also eats some flowers and will drink oozing sap. It eats many insects in summer, including beetles, caterpillars, ants. Young nestlings are fed mostly insects at first, then more berries after a few days.
  • Except when nesting, it almost always forages in flocks.
  • The Cedar Waxwing may hover briefly while plucking berries or taking insects from foliage, and it often flies out to catch insects in mid-air.

For more on the cedar waxwing, visit the Audubon Field Guide.


Cedar Waxwing eats berry
Cedar Waxwing with berry

Discover Nature Notes: Cedar Waxwings

Watch Cedar Waxwings in action
Watch Cedar Waxwings in action

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