Strong circumstantial evidence for ethanol toxicosis in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)


Several flocks of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were found dead after colliding with solid objects such as picture windows, plexiglass, and fences. Necropsy examination revealed that all birds had engorged themselves with over-ripe berries of the Brazilian Pepper Tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) and had hemorrhages in the breast muscles and the coelomic cavity due to hepatic rupture. Microscopic examination of tissues revealed no underlying pathological conditions. Ethanol was detected at levels of 260–1,000 ppm in the intestinal contents and liver, respectively. The cause of death in these birds was trauma that resulted from colliding with hard objects when flying under the influence of ethanol.


Ethanol-Vergiftung beim Zedernseidenschwanz ( Bombycilla cedrorum )

Gruppen von Zedernseidenschwänzen wurden nach Zusammenstößen mit festen Objekten wie Panoramafenstern, Plexiglas und Zäunen tot aufgefunden. Die Untersuchung der Körper ergab, dass sich die Vögel an überreifen Beeren des brasilianischen Pfefferbaums (Schinus terebinthifolius) überfressen hatten und aufgrund von Rissen im Leberparenchyms starke Blutungen im Bereich des Brustmuskels und der Leibeshöhle aufwiesen. Die Gewebe-Mikroskopie zeigte keine tiefer gehenden Ursachen; aber im Verdauungstrakt wie auch in der Leber konnte Ethanol in Konzentrationen von 260  bis 1,000 ppm nachgewiesen werden. Die Todesursache war bei diesen Vögeln ein Trauma, das sie höchstwahrscheinlich als Ursache von Zusammenstößen mit harten Gegenständen unter einer Ethanolvergiftung davontrugen.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Avery ML, Goocher KJ, Cone MA (1993) Handling efficiency and berry size preferences of cedar waxwings. Wilson Bull 105(4):604–611

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bashir M, Javed MT (2005) Effects of ethanol on brain and pancreas weights, serum sodium and potassium, and hematological parameters in quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica). Avian Pathol 34(2):96–100

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida (2010) Brazilian pepper-tree Schinus terebinthifolius non-native to Florida.

  4. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology (2011) Cedar waxwing. All about birds. www.birds.cornell

  5. del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Christie DA (2005) Family Bombycillidae (waxwings). In: del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Christie DA (eds) Handbook of the birds of the World, vol 10., Cuckoo-shrikes to thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, pp 304–3018

    Google Scholar 

  6. Eriksson K, Nummi H (1983) Alcohol accumulation from ingested berries and alcohol metabolism in passerine birds. Ornis Fenn 60:2–9

    Google Scholar 

  7. Fitzgerald SD, Sullivan JM, Everson RJ (1990) Case report—suspected ethanol toxicosis in two wild cedar waxwings. Avian Dis 34:488–490

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Levey DJ (2004) The Evolutionary ecology of ethanol production and alcoholism. Symposium in Vino Veritas: The comparative biology of alcohol consumption. Integr Comp Biol 44:284–289

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Levey DJ, Duke GE (1992) How do frugivores process Fruit? Gastrointestinal transit and glucose absorption in cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Auk 109(4):230–722

    Google Scholar 

  10. MacDonald G, Sellers B, Langeland K, Duperron-Bond T, Ketterer-Guest K (2008) Brazilian pepper-tree, Schinus terebinthifolius

  11. Orbach DN, Veselka N, Dazl Y, Lazure L, Fenton MB (2010) Drinking and flying: Does alcohol consumption affect the flight and echolocation performance of phyllostomid bats? PLoS ONE 5(2):e8993. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008993

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Prinzinger R, Hakim GA (1996) Alcohol resorption and alcohol degredation in European starling Strunus vulgaris. J Ornithol 137:319–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Pulliainen E, Helle P, Tunkkari P (1981) Adaptive radiation of the digestive system, heart and wings of Turdus pilaris, Bombycilla garrulus, Sturnus vulgaris, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Pinicola enucleator and Loxia pytyopsittacus. Ornis Fenn 58:21–28

    Google Scholar 

  14. Sanchez F, Melcón M, Korine C, Pinshow B (2010) Ethanol ingestion affects flight performance and echolocation in Egyptian fruit bats. Behav Process 84:555–558

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Shetty KG, Minnis AM, Rossman AY, Jayachandran K (2011) The Brazilian peppertree seed-borne pathogen, Neofusicoccum batangarum, a potential biocontrol agent. Biol Control 56:91–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Stephen LJ, Walley WJ (2000) Alcohol intoxication contributing to mortality in Bohemian waxwings and a pine grosbeak. Blue Jay 58(1):33–35

    Google Scholar 

  17. Töpfer T (2010) Suspected road salt poisoning in Bohemian waxwings Bombycilla garrulus (Aves: Passeriformes: Bombycillidae). Vertebr Zool 60(2):171–174

    Google Scholar 

  18. USGS National Wildlife Health Center (2010) Ethanol toxicosis and subsequent trauma in cedar waxwings (Texas). Quarterly Wildlife Mortality Report April 2010 to June 2010.

  19. Wiens F, Zitzmann A, Lachance MA, Yegles M, Pragst F, Wurst FM, von Holst D, Guan SL, Spanagel R (2008) Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105(30):10326–10431

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Witmer MC (1996) Annual diet of cedar waxwings based on U.S. Biological Survey Records (1885–1950) compared to diet of American robins: contrasts in dietary patterns and natural history. Auk 113:414–430

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hailu Kinde.

Additional information

Communicated by L. Fusani.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kinde, H., Foate, E., Beeler, E. et al. Strong circumstantial evidence for ethanol toxicosis in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). J Ornithol 153, 995–998 (2012).

Download citation


  • Bombycilla cedrorum
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Ethanol
  • Schinus terebinthifolius
  • Toxicosis