As It Happens

A drunk tank in Yukon helps birds sober up

In the Yukon, it's drunk bird season. This time of year, people living in the northern territory are known to come across little grey birds called Bohemian waxwings that just can't fly straight. And now the Yukon environment department has set up a place for the birds to dry out.
Bohemian waxwing (Keith Williams)

In the Yukon, it's drunk bird season. This time of year, people living in the northern territory are known to come across little grey birds called Bohemian waxwings that just can't fly straight. And now the Yukon environment department has set up a place for the birds to dry out.

The Bohemian waxwings get intoxicated when the feed on berries that have been through the first frost, creating alcohol, explains Meghan Larivee, one of the government workers in charge of the avian drunk tank.

"The birds do end up flying more erratically than normal," she tells Carol. "They can't coordinate their movements as well, just the same as people ... Usually, their whole beaks are stained with the red of the berries."

The birds then bang into windows and cars and other objects with a reflective surface. They're often hurt and the crashes can even prove fatal. So Ms. Larivee and her colleagues have asked the public to bring in any drunk birds they find.

"Our drunk tank is actually a hamster cage," she says. "We have a little flannel blanket and some water because, of course, they tend to get dehydrated, just like people."

Usually, the birds are released after a few hours. But before they are, they are tested for sobriety.

"We do put them in a line to walk to see if they are stumbling," she says.

Any birds that have lingering injuries are sent for rehab at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

So why don't the Bohemian waxwings learn their lesson about alcohol?

"It's just that the benefits outweigh the costs so much for these guys," Ms. Larivee explains. "They're getting a huge amount of calories from these fruit."

now