Fredericton — Earlier this week a rash of inebriated Bohemian waxwings sent Yukon wildlife officials flying to construct miniature drunk tanks to contain them. The songbirds feed almost exclusively on fruit, and each winter they feast on incredible amounts of berries, most of which have rotted to the point of fermentation.
“There are countless examples of these birds drinking themselves to death by eating more alcoholic berries than their tiny livers can take,” said Don Matheson, chairman of the Vancouver Avian Research Centre. “We tried to contain them in little ‘holding cells,’ each of which contained a TV and some newspapers, you know, just for entertainment. When they saw an ad for that whisky festival in New Brunswick, they became incredibly unruly,” he said while bandaging the multiple beak-wounds on his hands.
“They took off like a few hundred bats outta hell, and they’re not going to stop until they crash that party in Fredericton,” he added fearfully.
In the Yukon — which also lays claim to Canada’s highest rate of human alcohol consumption — the waxwing’s pick of fruit are orange-hued berries from the Mountain Ash tree, a common shrub. When these berries rot, their fermented juices taste almost exactly like whisky, which over the years has caused the bird to develop a broad and pretentious range of whisky preferences.
“There’s a couple big flocks, and you can see them flying erratically, bumping into trees and stopping to throw up every so often, but from what we can tell they’re headed east, and fast,” said Rachael Dempsey, with the territory’s Animal Health Unit. “These yearly alcohol binges are nothing new to North America’s waxwings, but with the wide repute of the NB Spirits Festival, chances are the birds won’t be holding back. And worse, they’re so used to whisky now that they think they know everything about it — some only like single-malt, some rave about ‘bouquet’ this and ‘oak-aged’ that, turning their beaks up at simple Yukon whisky.”
In Fredericton, the organizers of the 19th Annual Spirits Festival are flocking together to prepare for the real-life angry birds. Bruce Stevenson, one of these organizers, said that festival attendees should prepare for the birds to be brazen, belligerent, and to try to pick fights with people for no good reason — just like human drunks. “Some New Brunswickers are worried about the ruckus these feathered fiends will cause, but we’re going to have plenty of police on standby,” he said. “They’ll be ready to haul these birds back to the drunk tank where they can dry out, and hopefully they’ll head back out west when the weekend’s over.”
The slogan for this year’s whisky fest has been altered slightly, to “Raise Your Spirits — And Your Defenses.”