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These Birds Could Use Intervention

Sat., March 28, 1998

What? What was that loud clunk?

Oh, just another drunken robin, careening woozily into our picture window.

Right at this moment, I am staring out at a flock of juiced-up robins having a boozy bird party in my front yard. About 40 of these little winged winos are swarming over our mountain-ash tree, fighting over the crimson berries left over from winter.

I can almost hear these whacked-out birds squabbling over the juiciest ones. They’re saying, “Hey, leggo that berry. Thash my berry. Get offa my branch. Yeah, well, your mother was a sapsucker.”

Nothing more pathetic than a bunch of ornithological alcoholics.

These ash berries were wholesome and nutritious bird goodies last fall, when they were plump and ripe. However, over the winter they have frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed, and all of those sweet berry juices slowly began to ferment. Now, they’ve turned into 40-proof cherry bombs, each berry like a little wrinkled jug of paisano red, each cluster like a half-rack of Raspberry Hefeweizen, each ash tree like a huge billboard blaring this message: “Bird kegger tonight! Gorge your craw! Party ‘til you regurgitate!”

You know how entertaining it is to be the only sober person in a party full of drunks? That’s what it’s like this morning looking out at these birds. Some of these fried feathered friends are hanging upside down from berry clusters, occasionally tilting their heads back rapturously as if overcome by the whirlies. Some of them are sidling up to robins of the opposite sex, “accidentally” touching wing feathers. Some of them are savoring each berry, rolling it around on their tongues, assuming a robin has a tongue, as if saying to themselves, “Complex, with a promising structure, yet needs another week before the flavors fully mature.”

And one or two are simply perched happily on the topmost branches, singing their little hearts out in the purest tenor imaginable.

Oh, here’s an interesting development. A small gang of party-crashers, a cadre of cedar waxwings, has come swaggering into the ash tree. Is trouble brewing, or even fermenting? Am I about to witness a brutal, inter-species brawl? One of the robins is edging menacingly toward a waxwing, and I think somebody’s about to get, you know, beaked. No, wait, the robin appears to be friendly, and he is actually … oh, my, he just brushed his tail feathers up against that sleek little waxwing. These guys are more snokkered than I thought.

One thing you can say about robins. They are happy drunks.

This blotto-bird phenomenon has been documented by far more reliable ornithologists than myself. My copy of “The Audubon Society’s Encyclopedia of North American Birds” contains an extensive passage on bird alcoholism. Sometimes, old, fermented apples are the culprits. The book reports many instances of robins staggering around drunkenly in orchards, seemingly unable to fly, and occasionally begging somebody to put a quarter in the jukebox for a Hank Williams tune.

The encyclopedia specifically mentions the mountain-ash berry as one of the main sources of bird substance-abuse, proving what I have already observed. Birds like to get drunk on their ash.

However, there is a dark side to this bird-boozing issue. My encyclopedia informs me that birds have been known to get so stinko that they have teetered dizzily on telephone wires, finally passing out and falling to their deaths. Many have flown recklessly across highways, smacking into cars, demonstrating once again that drinking and driving don’t mix, not to mention drinking and flying. Also, birds have been known to get so bombed that they smash fatally into picture windows …

They what? Oh my God. I’m going outside right now to check on the little guy. Oh, thank goodness, there he is, alive and well, sitting under my window looking zonked. Come on, little fella, there you go. Good. He flew right up into a nearby fir tree, ricocheting off a branch only slightly. He’ll be fine.

That window collision could have been fatal. However, I have to think that he was saved by one mitigating factor. When he hit that window, boy was he loose.

, DataTimes MEMO: To leave a message on Jim Kershner’s voice-mail, call 459-5493. Or send e-mail to, or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

To leave a message on Jim Kershner’s voice-mail, call 459-5493. Or send e-mail to, or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review


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