Drunk Birds?


| 5 Comments
So I saw this article on BBC and knew I had to read it right away. Last week, animal health scientists were called to a playground to examine twelve dead blackbirds that were found there. Many of them seemed to have died of trauma injuries. After taking tests of the insides of the dead birds, one was found to have a very large amount of pure alcohol in its liver. So how did the birds die? They were apparently drunk because they ate fermented berries and flew into hard objects and were killed from the impact. Then around the same time a local wildlife area reported that they cared for a bird that was wobbling on its feet and was leaning against walls to support itself.brewers blackbird.jpg
It was speculated that the blackbirds ate the fermented berries from a nearby tree. The development office of the British Trust for Ornithology's Garden Birdwatch, Tim Harrison explained that these birds usually eat the berries without a problem. He said that they are normally very good at metabolizing the alcohol in the berries because they have a lot of fruit in their diet and are used to it. He said that there have been apparent reports of birds acting "drunk" but it is very, very rare.
The toxicology reports of the birds showed that only one sample had a very high concentration of alcohol in its liver, while the two others didn't... It is still a mystery to them as to why all twelve birds were drunk when some didn't even have alcohol in their systems. I would really like to try and see some drunk birds one time, just because it is something you never hear of. What do you think? Do you think that the birds were actually drunk and that the fermented berries caused that? Or that there was some sort of third or confounding variable that contributed to all the birds acting in such a way?

5 Comments

This is so crazy!! I've never heard of anything like this before. I definitely think that the birds were drunk from the berries. It's the only thing that makes sense. Or, all the birds ate or drank from something else that had alcohol in it. If the birds usually eat the berries with out a problem. I wonder why this time the berries effected the birds more than usual? Why did they only act "drunk" this time? Did this batch of berries have more alcohol in them?

I CONCUR MEGAN! This is completely insane. I too would be interested in seeing drunk birds though since it's such a strange thing to hear about. I don't think it was a confounding variable, it had to be the berries. Unless reckless teenagers made a trip to the park and left a few bird baths of liquor. Maybe the bird that showed such a severe amount of alcohol in it's system was used to a different diet than the other birds. Do you think that's a possibility?

I thought this blog was so funny and interesting being that I never thought of animals actually being "drunk"! After reading this, I thought of the class where Andrew lectured about homosexuality in animals, which I also had no idea existed. I further researched this topic because I thought it was really interesting to see if other animals besides birds could actually become intoxicated from alcohol. The Scientific American states that "there is scant scientific evidence proving that animals go on benders with the naturally occurring alcohol in fermenting fruit", similar to what you said. In the 1990s, there was a study done by animal psychologists Frank Wiens and Annette Ziztmann. They observed that tiny pentailed treeshrews returned regularly to nip the nectar on a tree that contained small amounts of alcohol. Wiens actually noticed a strange smell coming from the plant; he noticed it even looked like foam that comes from beer! The plant contained 3.8 percent alcohol and realized that the animals frequently went back to it. Could animals become addicted to alcohol, similar to humans?

this is pretty interesting. i wonder how the BAC level compares with mammals such as ourselves to these birds. like maybe their BAC level is like 1/10 of the average BAC level for men and women.

this is very interesting, although i have never heard of this happening with birds i have heard of both dogs and elephants being drunk. As i looked into further there have been other cases, monkey, and other small animals, that after consuming fermented fruit, causing them to raise their blood alcohol level.

I would be interested to know if animals develop a taste for alcohol such as humans have? do they suffer from alcohol addiction? and are their bodies made to metabolize alcohol?

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