October 13, 2018 6:00 am

Weather fluctuations could mean drunk Manitoba birds

Fermented berries can be intoxicating for birds.

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The forecast of an upcoming warm front is music to the ears of many Winnipeggers, but the fluctuating weather can have unexpected effects on local wildlife.

Across the border in Glibert, Minn., local police had to put out an advisory telling residents to watch out for intoxicated birds.

Drunk birds aren’t an unusual phenomenon, Sherrie Versluis of Winnipeg’s The Preferred Perch told 680 CJOB. It’s all caused by fermented berries.

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“It’s unfortunately a common occurrence. What makes this year different is that once there’s a first frost, the sugars in the berries ferment and turn into alcohol,” she said.

“Once the birds ingest them, they’re susceptible to that alcohol. This year, what’s happening, is we had frost, then it warmed up, then frost, then it warmed up.

READ MORE: Sick birds found in second retention pond in Winnipeg

“That creates yeast as well in the berries, so we have a full-blown fermentation going on there.”

Versluis described the impact on the birds as typical ‘drunk’ symptoms.

“They basically can’t coordinate their flight, they’re staggering in the air, they can’t use their feet properly to perch or even walk,” she said.

Zebra finches, in particular, often show signs of slurred and off-key singing.

“It definitely is a problem with flying into windows, flying into walls, flying into cars in parking lots. They’re totally out of sorts because they’re fully drunk.”

If you find a drunk bird, she said, one option is to get a box to put them in until they recover, then let them go. If they’re injured as a result of the drunkenness, you should contact Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre or another animal agency.

WATCH: U of M staff and students use artwork to prevent fatal bird collisions

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