Cedar Waxwings on Spring Break
I went a little crazy on a recent three-day weekend at the beach. After seeing the movie Deadpool, my often beleaguered husband remarked that I should add some highlights to my hair like Vanessa, the love interest played by Morena Baccarin. He has been enamored of her since she played a “Companion” in Firefly. Given that I have made some unfortunate choices in the hair dye aisle of Walmart in the past, I was a bit reluctant. Who hasn’t fallen for that irresistible marketing ploy that is “Mahogany Magic” when trying to find a slightly different shade of brown and unwittingly ended up with a head of eggplant purple tresses? No one? Just me, huh? Oops.
Making the bold overture, I came up lacking in the follow-through. Apparently I didn’t leave the highlight solution on long enough and ended up with three strands of hair that are a slightly lighter mousey brown than the rest. In my defense, the box said to said wash it out when the hair turned pale yellow. That’s what I thought I did. In their defense, the instructions did say to do a strand test. No one actually does that, do they? Oh, really, that is a thing? Oops again.
I am not the only one making ill-informed decisions lately. It’s not even time for spring break yet and already we have seen many patients at Peace River Wildlife Center that have imbibed a few too many and ended up on the wrong end of a collision with an inanimate object. This time of year we see a vast variety of song birds migrating through the area. Most of them seem to navigate without incident. And then there are the berry-eaters.
Every week PRWC sees birds like cedar waxwings, American robins and grey catbirds that have been “over-served” on the fruits of the Brazilian pepper tree. These berries when eaten directly off of the branches have been noted to produce a paralyzing effect on birds. When found on the ground in various stages of decay, the fermented fruits can cause the imbibing birds to exhibit a drunken-type behavior. Hence, the large number of birds we see that have flown into windows, street signs and the sides of buildings.
The cedar waxwing is a particularly striking bird. A rare frugivore (diet consisting mostly of fruit), the waxwing is a small bird with greyish brown plumage on the back and wings and a pale yellow belly. It has a black mask over the eyes, a distinct yellow band at the tip of the tail and vivid red wax-like “droplets” on the tips of the wing feathers. The male has a darker, more well-defined black chin strap than the female. Breeding in the northern US and southern Canada, the waxwing is a true snow bird here in SW Florida. Unlike some birds that migrate to and through here, this species does not have a population that stays here year round.
Most of the wayward patients just need a few hours or days in the “drunk tank” at PRWC to sleep off the effects of the party. When they are of sound mind and body again, we release them back to the closest flock and they are on their way, with a great story to tell their grandkids. You all remember those hazy, crazy days of youth, right? But you are probably reluctant to regale your own grandkids with those stories. And while I might not look any more like Ms. Baccarin than I did four days ago, I am a little tanner and more well rested. I was tempted to tell my husband that perhaps he should strive to look more like Ryan Reynolds, but I was frankly afraid which version of Deadpool he might resemble. Spoiler alert—the guy at the end of the movie looks considerably different than he does at the beginning of the story. And truth be told, I was terrified by the chance, as much as I love my husband, he might show up in red spandex. No one wants to see that.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM