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Party animals crash: Drunk birds hit reflective windows 

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Mardi Gras was cancelled, fines for noise violations increased, and downtown bars have been admonished for allowing rowdy behavior. But in SLO’s fight to reduce alcohol-related problems, one group was forgotten.

The bird is the word.

Roughly a dozen small birds were found dead outside of the County Government Center on the Higuera Street sidewalk on Feb. 25. Ted Hall, the maintenance man tasked with disposing the little bodies, reported seeing the birds flying erratically, as though drunk, before they crashed into the tall building’s glass windows.

Hall’s theory was later confirmed by the manager of the Morro Bay Natural History Museum, Rouvaishyana, who said winter rains can cause common pyracantha and cotoneaster berries to swell up with water and ferment.

“The result is a sort of natural wine,” he said. “Some species of birds can become drunk on this [and will] stagger, fall off perches, or fly into windows due to disorientation.”

Based on second-hand descriptions, Joe Seals, a local horticultural consultant and birding enthusiast, identified the birds on Higuera as cedar waxwings, a species that migrates through SLO in large flocks during the winter.

Pacific Wildlife Care first heard of the birds dying downtown about two weeks ago and sent suggestions for reducing the problem to the County Government Center.

“We advised the maintenance people to reduce the reflection by putting stickers on the windows,” said PWC member Dave Klinzman. “The birds see the sky’s reflection and think it’s safe to fly through, but if you make it look unnatural, they’ll stay away.”

The fatal phenomenon has occurred for about two months according to Russell Thomas, co-owner of Honeymoon Café, a restaurant whose front entrance is a few feet from where the birds fell.

“Most days, there’s only two or three out there, but there’s been about 10 on a few occasions,” he said.

Though his customers haven’t complained, Thomas said, “Dead birds near a café is never a good combo.”

Since the collisions, streaming ribbons have been draped over the windows of the County Government Center.


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