Drunk On Fermented Fruit

Cedar waxwing in Ohio (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

28 December 2022

After five days of extremely cold weather the temperature is rising into the 40s today and will stay above freezing in the week ahead. Hard fruits that were softened by the freeze are now poised to ferment in warmer weather. Soon we may see drunken birds.

Birds leave crabapples and Callery pears on the trees in November because they’re too hard to eat. Freezing breaks down the starches into sugars and when the fruit thaws it is soft and yummy. However yeast gets into the fruit and ferments it. Birds gobble up the soft tasty fruit. If they eat too much they get drunk.

Callery pear fruit, before and after freezing (photos by Kate St. John)

When abundant rowan berries fermented in Gilbert, Minnesota in October 2018, waxwings gorged on them and became quite drunk.

video from Fox 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul on YouTube

This black-billed magpie didn’t care that he was eating fermented apples until he could barely walk. He staggers among the apples and is only slightly more agile by the end of the video.

video from @ViralSnareRightsManagement on YouTube

Pumpkins are a fruit and, yes, they can ferment. When they do, squirrels get drunk.

Discarded pumpkins in Bloomfield, Dec 2020 (photo by Kate St. John)

video from @ShadiPetosky on YouTube

In 2015 a study reported that fermented fruit is becoming more common because of climate change. There’s more news in this vintage article.

(photos by Kate St. John and from Wikimedia Commons, videos embedded from YouTube; click on the captions to see the originals)

4 thoughts on “Drunk On Fermented Fruit

    1. Deer could get drunk but they would have to eat quite a lot of fermented fruit before it would happen — considering their body weight.

    1. Mary, at the end of summer the bees’ food is waning so they are frantically gathering food before winter. Honeybees are very busy but the “bees” that go berserk are yellowjacket wasps that resemble bees. Here are two articles about them
      “Look before you drink” https://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/2011/09/20/look-before-you-drink/
      “Don’t step near that hole” https://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/2020/08/18/dont-step-near-that-hole/

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