Article

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

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Abstract

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.

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... Such dizziness may lead to accidents in flying birds, as ethanol is a component of various fruits (Eriksson and Nummi 1983) and their consumption has been seen to cause accidents through sleepiness in birds (Fitzgerald et al. 1990;Katz 2018). Kinde et al. (2012) reported the death of many Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) flocks after bumping into solid objects such as fences, picture windows and plexiglass, when flying under the influence of ethanol. Post-mortem examination showed that birds had eaten over-ripened berries of the Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius). ...
... The abovementioned studies did not find any histopathological lesions in the liver (Bashir and Javed 2005;Javed et al. 2008;Naqi et al. 2011;Duff et al. 2012;Kinde et al. 2012). However, an earlier study by Allen et al. (1981) reported mild to moderate fatty changes and subcapsular haemorrhages in the hepatic tissue in chicks treated with a concentrated dose of ethanol (95%). ...
... However, an earlier study by Allen et al. (1981) reported mild to moderate fatty changes and subcapsular haemorrhages in the hepatic tissue in chicks treated with a concentrated dose of ethanol (95%). Other studies have reported changes in liver function (Kinde et al. 2012;Iqbal et al. 2015). A study by Peebles et al. (1996), also reported elevated serum cholesterol, glucose, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in all treated birds. ...
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... Diverse vertebrates consume food items containing low-concentration ethanol. [18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25] Ethanol acts as a feeding stimulant. ...
... Additionally, behavioral preferences by fruit flies for ethanol-containing substrates are correlated with the ability to metabolize ethanol, suggesting a direct link between metabolic capacity and sensory attraction [39]. Similarly, ethanol is not aversive to fruit-feeding birds and bats [22,23] and is sometimes consumed at lethal levels [24,25]. In rodents, ethanol evokes neural hyperactivity in brain-feeding circuits, further supporting evolutionary associations between consumption of fermented substrates and caloric gain [40]. ...
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... Interestingly, only three species were recorded consuming alcohol in both the scientific literature and video data sources, and all three (cedar and Bohemian waxwings, and European starling) are classical subjects for the study of the effects of alcohol on birds. These studies combined both experimental and observational data [8,10,24] and even necropsy examination after collision of drunken birds with solid objects, such as picture windows, plexiglass or fences [25]. Enlarging the list of bird species that consume alcohol was possible due to the use of both classical scientific data and also the more numerous information available from YouTube and other video sources. ...
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... In the wild, frugivorous and nectarivorous birds often eat fermenting fruits and nectar, and thus may consume levels of ethanol that could induce inebriation (Eriksson & Nummi 1982, Fitzgerald et al. 1990, Kinde et al. 2012. Previous work has shown that the effects of ethanol consumption can be negligible for some facultative or occasional nectarivores/frugivores (Mazeh et al. 2008, Zungu & Downs 2017. ...
... Generally, ethanol consumption is detrimental to fitness of organisms as it increases the susceptibility to predation (Janzen 1977) by interfering with motor skills resulting in a significant loss of coordination (Sanchez et al. 2008). Indeed, mounting anecdotal accounts of inebriation after consumption of overripe fruits in the wild have been reported in a number of vertebrates and ethanol was suspected to be the cause in all of these cases (Fitzgerald et al. 1990;Dominy 2004;Kinde et al. 2012). However, these reports do not provide a strong case for inebriation as it can be easily confused with other forms of intoxication. ...
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... Brazilian peppertree is not only a threat to biodiversity but also to agriculture and cattle production (Ewel, 1986;Morton, 1978;Yoshioka & Markin, 1991). Ingestion of the leaves and fruits by grazing animals and birds has shown narcotic and toxic effects (Campello & Marsaioli, 1974;Kinde et al., 2012;Morton, 1978). Additionally, this species causes allergic reactions and respiratory illness in sensitive humans due to the volatiles released from leaves and fruit (Morton, 1978;Stahl, Keller, & Blinn, 1983). ...
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... In Hawaii, for example, it is recognised as one of the most significant non-indigenous threats to federal listed endangered and threatened native plants (USFWS, 1998). Recently, Kinde et al. (2012) reported that several flocks of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum Vieillot, Passeriformes: Bombycillidae) in California died from trauma following collision with hard objects after engorging on overripe berries of Brazilian peppertree. ...
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All tested blood parameters are within the expected range for birds (Tab. 1). Starlings show a high rate of alcohol resorption. Experimentally ingested (per os) doses of 1, 2 and 3 g/kg ethanol (10 %-solution) were completely absorbed from the digestive tract within at least 30 min. Extraintestinal metabolic alcohol degradation is also very fast. Within 130 min even 3 g/kg ethanol were completely metabolised (blood alcohol values did not exceed 145 mg/1; Tab. 2, Fig. a). Alcoholdehydrogenase (ADH) activity is very high (ca. 14-fold of man) and shows a clear and fast adaptive plasticity in correlation to ingested alcohol concentration (Fig. b). There seems to be a clear pre-adaptation in ADH-activity in birds. We found low values in seed-eating birds and high values in fruiteaters. Under field conditions normal alcohol concentration as found in fermentated fruits and berries are so low, that - in connection with high ADH-activity - birds obviously have no problems to cope with alcohol.
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Ethanol, a potential toxin for vertebrates, is present in all fleshy fruits and its content increases as the fruit ripens. Previously, we found that the marginal value of food for Egyptian fruit bats, Rousettus aegyptiacus, decreases when its ethanol content exceeds 1%. Therefore, we hypothesized that, if ingested, food containing >1% ethanol is toxic to these bats, probably causing inebriation that will affect flight and echolocation skills. We tested this hypothesis by flying Egyptian fruit bats in an indoor corridor and found that after ingesting ethanol-rich food bats flew significantly slower than when fed ethanol-free food. Also, the ingestion of ethanol significantly affected several variables of the bats' echolocation calls and behavior. We concluded that ethanol can be toxic to fruit bats; not only does it reduce the marginal value of food, but it also has negative physiological effects on their ability to fly competently and on their calling ability.
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Several wild cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) fell from a rooftop following ingestion of overwintered hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) pommes. At necropsy, there was pericardial hemorrhage, although no microscopic abnormalities were found. Ethanol was present in crop contents (380 ppm) and in the livers (238 and 989 ppm). The cause of death was attributed to hemorrhage following a fall precipitated by ethanol intoxication. /// Varios alas de cera salvajes (Bombycilla cedrorum) cayeron del techo después de la ingestión de fruta de espino silvestre (Cratageus sp.). A la necropsia, se encontró hemorragia pericárdica pero no se observaron anormalidades microscópicas. En el contenido del buche se encontró etanol (380 ppm), lo mismo que en el hígado (238 y 989 ppm). La causa de la muerte fue atribuida a la hemorragia después de la caída, precipitada por la intoxicación con etanol.
Aves: Passeriformes: Bomby-cillidae) Ethanol toxicosis and subsequent trauma in cedar waxwings (Texas) Quarterly Wildlife Mortality Report Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews
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