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Science news for a Saturday morning: Cedar waxwings die a drunkard’s death


Well, that’s what we learn from Jeff Hecht in “Drunk birds had one-too-many berries to blame” (New Scientist, 25 May 2012). Apparently, waxwings lack a crop (storage area for undigested food) and have the highest proportion of fruit in their diet of all North American birds. On a hot day, of course, ethyl alcohol builds up in overripe fruit, so:

But those evolutionary innovations backfired on several occasions between 2005 and 2007 when flocks of them died after crashing into windows and fences in broad daylight in the Los Angeles area.

Residents puzzled by the deaths sent the bodies to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino. Necropsies performed by Hailu Kinde and colleagues at the lab showed the birds had been healthy when they gorged on berries from the Brazilian pepper tree, then died from ruptured livers or other traumas caused by the collisions.

Animal rights activists are said to be working overtime to blame this one on humans.  🙂

Here they are, getting hammered again:

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