Drunken birds not so absurd

02Jun10

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its, it’s… a falling drunken parrot?

As reported in today’s Ottawa Citizen, hundreds of parrots have fallen from trees in a northern Australian town over the past few days in a seemingly drunken condition. The drunken behaviour has baffled veterinarians, who say the birds exhibit all the classic symptoms of intoxication and alcoholic hangover.

The birds have been losing coordination, passing out and withdrawing into cages when their “hangovers” kick in.

In an effort to quell the birds’ hangover symptoms, vets are feeding them sweetened porridge and fresh fruit — a concoction veterinary surgeon Lisa Hansen compares to a human remedy: ice-cream and cans of Coke.

It isn’t yet known what is causing the bizarre outbreak of “drunkenness”, with theories ranging from ingestion of different plants to a viral outbreak in the birds.

This story caught my eye primarily because it underscores a strange mystery of the human condition. We often think that we are the only creatures on earth to feel certain physical and mental symptoms. But it isn’t the case. Many species of animal are susceptible to the same maladies that afflict us, even altered states brought on by either environmental factors or ingestion of plants or other substances.

I hope researchers figure the mystery of the drunken parrots out quickly. Nobody likes a party that goes on far too long.

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