As we prepare for New Year’s Eve, here’s a bit of cocktail party trivia for you as we head to that age-old Champagne flute clinking tradition at midnight!
Don’t drink and fly is good advice for birds, just as for human pilots. While I’m not sure if birds have an equivalent to “eight hours from bottle to throttle “ as in aviation, it might have served some of the following species well after ingesting fermented berries. Like humans, birds can suffer adverse effects after ingesting alcohol, which in nature can be provided by the fermentation of berries. In addition to suffering harmful physical effects leading to death, collisions with windows area another potential danger for birds that fly while intoxicated.
5 Birds with Drinking Problems
#1. It’s Off to the Drunk Tank for Waxwings!
Bohemian waxwings are well documented for getting drunk from eating fermented berries, as noted in a previous post. A drunk tank for birds seems funny but entirely necessary since intoxication can have dire consequences for the birds. This was the case in the Yukon (see the video below) where an influx of Waxwings required wildlife officials to set up a rehab center just for the birds. Another article cites the The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation reporting regular incidences of Bohemian Waxwings (as well as, by the way, Crossbills) colliding with windows after ingesting Mountain Ash berries.
#2. Youthful folly leads to drinking in birds?
it seems it’s not just human adolescents who go on drinking binges with detrimental effects. A report about a case involving Common Blackbirds in England, later determined to be juveniles, were found dead in a school yard and, upon examination, it was discovered that they had ingested alcohol by eating berries. Researchers hypothesized that their young age had something to do with their difficulty in metabolizing the alcohol; that perhaps either older birds where better able to physically metabolize the substance or learned to avoid the berries altogether.
#3. Are the Robins really singing because they are happy it’s spring?
While many people think the song of the Robin is a sign of spring ( newsflash: they don’t all migrate and can be found here year ’round!), next time you hear one, consider that maybe it sounds so happy because it is reveling from the effects of fermented berries Robins are another species that have been observed in an inebriated condition.
#4. Schnapps verboten for Owls in Germany!
An owl in Germany was picked up by police and taken to a local bird vet to sober up. An observant citizen noticed the owl loitering by the roadside and called police, who determined that the owl had likely imbibed from the two empty Schnapps ( liquor) bottles nearby.
#5. Starlings’ Wine country tour possibly leads to deadly downfall
A huge flock of allegedly “drunk” Starlings wreaked havoc among motorists by causing a massive traffic jam along an Austrian highway. The birds seemed to drop out of the sky and were killed as they crashed into cars. According to an article on the Austrian website Heute.at, officials from Bird Life International speculated in a radio interview that prior to their untimely deaths, the flock had overflown vineyards and stopped to snack on the grapes. Then, as the sugar fermented in the bird’s stomachs, it led to their intoxication, disorientation and, ultimately, their gruesome roadside deaths.
#5. 5. Don’t tweet while drunk! Good advice for Zebra Finches too.
A study involving zebra finches determined that upon ingesting alcohol, these birds had difficulty expressing themselves in song, sort of like humans slurring their speech. The study also determined that after being exposed to alcohol, adolescent finches’ ability to learn complicated songs was impaired. The study was hoping to use the drunken finch study to gain insight on into how human adolescent brains are affected by binge drinking.
On that note, wishing everyone a happy, healthy and bird filled New Year! Cheers, and be careful with that “berry juice” tonight!