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CREATURE FEATURE : Friends Don't Let Friends Dive Drunk

March 20, 1994|Michael Tennesen

They found Harry out in the woods by a Northern California winery passed out drunk. His rescuers took him to the nearest medical facility, where the staff gave him something to settle his stomach, and then let him sleep it off.

Tales from an AA meeting? Nope. Harry is a red-tailed hawk. And the drunk tank was a cage at Santa Rosa's Bird Rescue Center, whose all-volunteer staff treats 3,000 injured or poisoned birds a year.

Vineyards occasionally use mulch made from pressed grapes and the stuff can ferment. Blackbirds and starlings are usually the first to get into the sauce. Then the hawks start eating the party birds, not realizing that these guys have booze-filled centers. And because drunk birds look like poisoned birds, the Bird Rescue Center, which treats about 30 drunken hawks a year, gets the call.

Repeat offenders are a problem. A few winters ago, center staffers tried driving the dried-out birds 30 miles away before releasing them. But, says Karen Krone, the center's director of medical care, "The very next weekend they brought in another drunk bunch and I swear they looked like the same hawks."

Recently, however, the center is seeing fewer boozed-up red-tails. "Moderation," says Krone, "appears to be in with hawks."

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