Intoxicated Birds Cause Trouble In Minnesota

By Keri Blakinger 10/08/18

Bird experts blame seasonal migration for the abnormal behavior while others believe fermented fruit is the culprit.

birds flying in the sky

Are they two wings to the air or three sheets to the wind? 

A northern Minnesota town has been plagued by drunk and disorderly birds wreaking havoc on the friendly skies over Gilbert. 

But—believe it or not—it was the town’s police department that flagged locals to stop calling in about the two-winged town drunks.

“The Gilbert Police Department has received several reports of birds that appear to be ‘under the influence’ flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” officers wrote on Facebook. “The reason behind this occurrence is certain berries we have in our area have fermented earlier than usual due to an early frost, which in turn has expedited the fermenting process.”

Typically, the birds would have already migrated away by the time the berries are at their most boisterous-making. But even if there appears to be some potential Flying While Intoxicated violations underway, police asked citizens not to call for help—unless they see “Big Bird operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner” or “other birds after midnight with Taco Bell items.” 

Short of that, the best approach is to wait patiently for the booze to wear off, police said, as birds tend to sober up quickly. 

Despite the well-received note, some experts had their doubts, telling the New York Times that the berries may not really be to blame for the birds’ boozy behavior.

Instead, they credited any avian-versus-window wrecks to big seasonal migrations passing through the town and said it would simply be too early in the season for fermenting fruit to be the culprit.

“I think this week everybody is yearning for something that we can all laugh at together,” Duluth-based bird expert Laura Erickson told the Times. “Drunken birds sound funny, and they are funny.”

Even if these particular birds aren’t drunk, there’s some evidence they can turn a little tipsy from fermented fruit, according to the Washington Post

“They just get sloppy and clumsy,” long-time birder Matthew Dodder told the paper. “They have actually fallen out of trees on occasion.”

Some species—like robins and thrushes—are more apt to engage in drunken debauchery than others. But, as yet, there’ve been no reports of birdies in barroom brawls. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.