Monday, November 17, 2008

Bird Food

Have you heard the story — not a myth, I believe — about birds nibbling on overripe pyracantha berries, and getting drunk on the fermentedness? Flying around kinda kookoo, sometimes crashing into walls? Probably having unprotected sex, too. Dumb birds.
Well, we have a couple of pyracanthas to look at — one in front of the bedroom window, and the other across the fence in the yard next door. The owner of the next-door pyracantha was a little twitchy earlier this summer when we trimmed the branches that hung over our side.
"The orioles like to eat the berries," she warbled.
She needn't have worried. There are plenty of berries.
But I can guarantee you I haven't seen any orioles. (Northern California is visited by Bullock's Oriole in spring and summer; the pyracantha berries don't turn red until October or thereabouts...)
Even so, we've seen robins and scrub jays munching on the berries. They aren't getting drunk. (Yet?) The berries are ripe, but not fermented.
Fall is pretty.

20 comments:

kudzu said...

"...she warbled." Heh.

It was the smaller birds who seemed most affected by those berries when I had the shrubs in my yard, mostly chickadees and juncos. None ever flew into my windows, but they seemed to be enjoying their high.

And yeah, the color helps us in our sort of no-autumn-change of place.

Dagny said...

There's a huge pyracantha in my mom's yard. Never had any birds fly into windows there. Checking online it seems to be a myth but I did come across this fun little article.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/1026_041026_birdman_robins.html

dancingmorganmouse said...

At our old house we used to get drunk birds and bees - they were eating/sipping from fermented grapes. Where we live now, we just get drunk bees, they are sipping fermented nectar from jacaranda blossoms on the ground.
In friday night there was a slightly tipsy mouse in the Brown Mouse House, too much fizzy wine with the girls from work.

el said...

I think you just WANT to see them drunk.

So, what's with these berries? Poisonous for humans? Because if they're so eager to go all tipsy on you it's, like, a lost opportunity or something.

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: I (heart) you! I'm flattered you picked up on my silly word. It just tumbled out, unbidden.
And! Now I have a name for all those little flitty birds we have here: juncos. I'm not sure about chickadees. I'm not much of a birder.

Dagny: Oh, thanks. That was a nice article to read. This is as close to "scientific proof" as I could get in 60 seconds of casual Googling; scroll down to "toyon berries": http://www.stanford.edu/~rawlings/birds.htm

Morgan: Drunk bees! Whoopsie! Sounds, er... fun!
You silly tipsy mouse.

El: Apparently they're edible. So, yeah, when they get fermented, free hooch! Naw, you try it first.

The Spiteful Chef said...

Maybe they're just functional drunks, and they can eat the berries and work on building nests all day, but secretly their family lives are suffering.

dancingmorganmouse said...

Cookie, the drunk bees mean I have to wear shoes outside, because the buggers still sting if you step on them. I HATE wearing shoes outside.

Greg said...

Watching the bird's getting drunk on berries.Man that's living the high life. Come on retirement!

Zoomie said...

Like Morgan, I've seen animals drunk on grapes but not pyracantha berries. In WNY, each year the woodchucks would get into the fermented wild grapes and they lost all fear, reeling around the college lawns. Goofy. Maybe the orioles your neighbor referred to are the gorgeous orange birds you told me about last summer?

kudzu said...

Gorgeous orange birds? What are you smoking up there in northern Marin?

Ask Santa for a good guide to bird identification. You're obviously in a good watching spot!

cookiecrumb said...

Spiteful: But I hate it when the berries run out, and they come banging on my door for some Jack Daniel's. Of course, I feel sorry for them, and pour a little in the bird feeder. I'm an enabler.

Mouse: You can hate wearing shoes now, because it's spring in NSW. I bet you wear boots in June.

Greg: I have a job!! I, uh, watch drunk birdies. Hard work. :D

Zoomie: Woodchucks. Chuckle. What is a woodchuck? (I know.)
Anyway, no the gorgeous birds we talked about are copper colored, in chest and head. Very subtle and beautiful. Haven't seen them this year.

Kudzu: I do need a bird guide. My little hilltop is very birdy. I wish I knew what those elusive copper birds were...

Heather said...

Pyracantha means fire-thorn.

The birds here get drunk on the elderberries. Especially those cedar waxwings. Lushes.

Michelle said...

Damn, I wish I was as witty as your other readers. Well, you still made me laugh and I luv you for it, even if I can't think of anything sprightly to say...maybe I need me some of those berries...

kudzu said...

Heather may be on to soemthing. I was thinking of cedar waxwings when you said "copper". But they only migrate through here and don't stay. And you didn't mention their Nefertiti eye markings which are so distinct (and a slight crest). They are gorgeous! Google them and see.

Sweet Bird said...

Hmm...something birds get drunk on? This requires further examination...

Sean said...

My ossum mother had an alcoholic parakeet as a child. One day it flew into the picture window in the living room and knocked itself out cold; my grandmother revived it with whiskey and water. Then it started deliberately flying into things to get the whiskey, and eventually figured out it could just keel over unprovoked. Including into my mother's breakfast cereal.

cookiecrumb said...

Heather: Thank you! I love etymology. I was hip to the "fire" part, and now -- thorn? Totally dig it. Man, those bushes have evil thorns.
As for the cedar waxwings. Yeah, they're berry-poppin' birdies. They like the firethorns too. When they're in town.

Michelle: You are in good company; anything you say is always welcome. :)

Kudzu: I've seen the waxwings; the crest gives them away. But these beautiful, small copper birdies, who seemed to travel in mated pairs... Alas. No idea.

Sweet Bird: Avian birds! Not human birds. xx

cookiecrumb said...

Sean: (You sneaked in while I was typing.)
A drunkard bird with wiles! What a hoot!
I got my dog drunk once, in college. Poor thing had to go outside and pee real bad; he fell over and kept peeing the whole time. I bet he had a hangover. I am evil.

Sean said...

I think I'll forego getting Reese drunk. :)

cook eat FRET said...

so here's what the birds do around here. they eat the poke salad bush berries and shit purple all over your car.

now i have one of those pyracantha out by the carport held up with a trellis... not sure if the birds get drunk on them. maybe i'll go hang out outside and observe... or not.