Drunk birds maintain Gilbert’s wet reputation

Cedar waxwings like this one eat berries during their migration. If the berries ferment on the branch, they get drunk. (PHOTO: C. Watts, Flickr CC)

Some birds got drunk in Gilbert, Minnesota.

They didn’t mean to. That’s not what they planned when they went out with their friends. But that’s what happened. And now their antics have reached the Washington Post.

This isn’t the first time alcohol consumption has landed Minnesota’s Iron Range in the national press. Nor is it particularly surprising that the town in question is Gilbert. But it’s the first time that I can recall local wildlife drawing the tsk-tsks and guffaws of a judgmental nation.

When a hard frost hits before birds finish their migration south, birds often end up eating berries that have fermented on the branch. Young birds don’t have the alcohol tolerance of their parents, so they often end up most affected.

This year, the berries in Gilbert run especially high proof. A number of people called local police reporting birds running into windshields, flopping around the sidewalks and flying erratically.

In response, a frustrated comedy writer embedded within the Gilbert Police Department penned the following press release:

Not bad. Not good, but not bad.

What the national media overlooks is the history involved. For a hundred years, Gilbert nursed the reputation of the rowdiest place in a region known for being rowdy.

It started in 1915 when federal agents enforced a ban on alcohol in towns within the boundaries of Ojibwa land. This included most of the towns on the Mesabi Iron Range. Even though white settlers had displaced native people years earlier, the feds saw an opportunity to test the waters of Prohibition before the Volstad Act was passed.

But the town of Gilbert rested just outside the treaty area. So, in the late 1910s, Gilbert became the only wet town in a dry region full of thirsty miners and lumberjacks.

In fact, the Mesabi Interurban Railway became popular because it safely brought miners as far away as Hibbing to and from Gilbert.

Even today, you find a large number of bars in downtown Gilbert’s wide main street, named Broadway. That’s because people come and go but liquor licenses never die.

On the other hand, birds need no license to procure intoxicating berries. While Gilbert’s people have become less rowdy over the years, their bird friends now make news for their rambunctious ways.


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.