Dead birds found in downtown Little Rock possibly intoxicated from fermented berries, expert says

Several dead birds were spotted near 7th and Main streets in downtown Little Rock in early April 2018.
Several dead birds were spotted near 7th and Main streets in downtown Little Rock in early April 2018.

While migration makes spring an exciting time for birdwatchers, downtown Little Rock offered a more bizarre view last week, as several dead birds were spotted in the street.

Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the carcasses scattered near the intersection of Main and Seventh streets are likely cedar waxwings, which feed almost exclusively on berries.

Rowe said Little Rock's warm days and cool nights may have caused berries in a nearby bush to ferment. When the birds eat these alcoholic berries, they become so intoxicated that they fall out of trees or off buildings and die, she said.

She added that the city's skyscrapers and reflective windows, which migrating birds often crash into, could also be a factor.

There isn't much the city can do, Rowe said, but red-tailed hawks and other predatory birds sometimes often scavenge the carcasses, helping clean up the mess.