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Drunken birds slam into glass walls

This story has absolutely nothing to do with the ESD industry, however, it is interesting and our readers should find it amusing.

February 11, 2005

Columbia, SC: Dozens of birds, drunk from eating holy berries, crashed into the glass of an office building and died earlier this week.

When the birds started slamming into the glass-walled office building's breezeway, workers didn't know what to do. The building is located at Middleburg Park in Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina.

A flock of cedar waxwings had found a feast of berries on the half-acre courtyard’s holly trees. But the birds got drunk on the berries and confused by the glass walls of the enclosed three-story courtyard.

“It was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie,” said Denise Wilkinson, who works for Providence Hospitals’ Sisters of Charity. “It was spooky.

“You could hear them where they flew into the glass.”

The birds started gathering at the building on Monday, workers said, but the problem grew worse as warm , sunny weather continued into the next day.

Workers said they saw more than 100 birds that had flown into the glass, about half of which had died. Many of the rest were injured or stunned.

Carolina Wildlife Care picked up 98 birds in two days, 62 of which should recover. The nonprofit group was treating the birds at its Bush River Road facility and planned to release them.

“I really saw birds just smacking the windows everywhere and dropping at your feet,” said Joanna Weitzel, with Carolina Wildlife Care. “This is not usual.”

The buliding's owner, Burgess Mills, said that landscapers had recently trimmed the holly trees, which might have caused a bumper crop of berries. The birds, he said, were flying from tree to tree, stripping them of berries.

Some birds were so loopy from the meal, he said, that they fell off tree branches.

James Macon, who handles maintenance for Middleburg Park, was applying blue tape to the building’s windows. He also removed berries from the holly trees.

Macon said he picked up about 100 birds early Tuesday morning.

Cedar waxwings are about 6 inches long. The pale brown birds have a black band across their eyes and yellow-tipped tails.

During summer, the birds typically are found in the Northeast, Midwest, Pacific Northwest and southern Canada, according to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Web site. During winter, the birds are most heavily concentrated between Texas and Georgia, but also in a small area surrounding Columbia.

Naturalist John Audubon wrote that cedar waxwings had a big appetite, even reporting seeing some eat themselves to death.

That appetite might have brought the birds to Middleburg Park.



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