Thursday, March 27, 2008

What is happening to the Cedar Waxwings!?

Ornamental Crabapple trees at the hospital

I filled the feeders at hospital today and was disturbed to find three more dead Cedar Waxwings and the remains of another that was likely eaten by our hawk. There was no sign of trauma on the bodies unlike the bird we found last week who had struck the window. There are several ornamental crab apple trees on the hospital grounds which have been loaded with fruit since the fall. The Cedar Waxwings have been feeding here and have made a noticeable dent in the amount of fruit compared to last week.

I was checking out possible causes for the dead birds and found this on the Cornell University birding site.

The Cedar Waxwing is vulnerable to alcohol intoxication and death after eating fermented fruit., especially when several warm days follow a cold frost. The cold causes cells in the fruit to burst, and yeast works on the mash converting sugar to alcohol. There are numerous records of birds flying out of control from the effects of alcohol.

If the birds are intoxicated, they are more inclined to hit the windows, or they may just be dropping dead. I don't know how such a problem could be prevented. This appears to be a bumper year for Cedar Waxwings in our area and large flocks have been reported in several areas of the city.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting, and sad, about those intoxicated Waxwings. Now am I as drunk as one, or is that first photo upside down?

    ReplyDelete
  2. lol...! I can see why you think the picture is upside down. The ornamental evergreen tree has strange droopy branches but that is the right side view out my window. Maybe the birds think things are reversed too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh dear, Ruth. They are such lovely birds, I hate to see them dying precipitously for whatever reason, drunk or no.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have seen robin's on the shy side of sober after feasting on our cherries late in the season - so if waxwings are vulnerable, I can see it happening.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's a shame but I suppose its all part of nature.Not much you can do to save all the intoxicated waxwings of the world.-Interesting blurb you had in there though.-I knew that they could become intoxicated but I didn't know that they could become fatally intoxicated-if that's what happened.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've heard of birds getting intoxicated when eating too many berries (fermented, no doubt). But I didn't realize it could be fatal for them. That's really too bad.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for your comments. I posted the information about the Cedar Waxwings (fui...!)on our birding forum. Someone speculated that the ornamental crab apple trees may be more susceptible to fermentation (? higher sugar content)plus they are so heavily fruited that the birds can really gorge. There are no wild shrubs with this quantity of fruit at this time of year.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh that is so sad. I'd heard of this, but never witnessed it. What an incredible photo of those lovely feathers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ruth,

    I read a while back they can become intoxicated and die. But they must be thriving well enough, for I've seen numerous flocks this year.

    Mary

    ReplyDelete