For the Birds: Tipsy Birds?

Monday, November 7, 2022

American Robin eating old berries Fermented? maybe....
Photo by Craig Kerns
By Christine Southwick

Have you ever seen a drunken robin or two, or perhaps a flock of impaired Cedar Waxwings? Quite comical. They wobble, they weave, they lay down, sometimes they hang upside down. And they sing off-key. As long as no loose cats find them, and said birds don’t fly into windows, the birds recover well.

A result of our wet spring was the loss of many early fruits. I had lots of serviceberry and crabapple fruits set, only to die from all the wet. And then the long hot dry spell caused the blackberries (which many people try to eliminate, but which local and migrating birds depend upon) to shrivel up and dry out. Fruits that robins, juncos, song sparrows, towhees, chickadees, wrens, and nuthatches depend upon are hard to find now. 

Band-tailed Pigeons eating berries while upside down--who knew?
Photo by Craig Kerns

The birds may eat any fruit they find. Mountain Ash, which bloomed a little later here, seem to have had successful crops. What fruits are still hanging could become fermented, especially after the first frost, so watch for drunken birds. Apples may also be suspect.

The main reason that our local birds delayed nesting this last spring was that the wet cold weather resulted in few bugs, especially very few caterpillars.

Fox Sparrows come to our milder winter area, and find
delectables in the leaves. Photo by Craig Kerns
This had a snowball effect-late babies, combined with the dry heat and smoke meant that parent birds were still tending some of their young into September, which meant they were catching bugs for their young and not coming to the feeders as often, which also caused the adults to change (molt) their feathers later, traditionally a time when they don’t come to the feeders much. 

People kept asking why their birds weren’t coming to their feeders and suet; now that the rains have arrived, they are back.

Female Anna's hummingbird drinking much needed
 nectar during cold weather. Photo by Craig Kerns
Backyard birds depend upon bugs all year long to survive. Baby birds are fed instant-energy caterpillars, spiders, mosquitoes, and other available bugs. Without these bugs many birds, especially the young ones, would die. 

With winter coming, spiders and other delectables are found under leaves, so keep some leaves on the ground for hungry birds. 

Bugs are best but suet can help fill in the void.

Sudden cold weather (for this area) means that you should put out suet now, for instant warming energy, keep the seed in your feeders dry, and keep your hummingbird feeders clean and liquid.

And watch for those tipsy birds…


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