Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young birds can get 'drunk' on fermented berries: Effects similar to those for people, only drunk birds have much further to fall

Date:
November 2, 2012
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
Young birds can get "drunk" on fermented berries and exhibit all the symptoms familiar to people who overindulge, indicates a small study.

Credit: S.R.Miller / Fotolia

Young birds can get 'drunk' on fermented berries. But unsteadiness on the feet, a tendency to fall over, and losing the ability to steer is considerably more of a problem when life is normally spent in trees or in the air.

The authors from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) reveal how they were called to a primary school in Cumbria last summer after the bodies of 12 young blackbirds were found.

A further blackbird was discovered alive, but obviously "unwell." And two more dead birds were subsequently found.

Foul play was suspected, especially as some of the birds had clearly been injured. The police were called.

Post mortem exams were carried out on the dead birds, who were otherwise in good physical condition. Tests to rule out lethal infections, such as avian flu, came back negative. But berries were found in all the birds' guts.

A few blackbirds had been spotted on rowan trees, beneath which berries similar to those found inside the dead birds covered the ground. Many of these berries looked as if they had been partially eaten.

Rowan berries are not normally considered poisonous to wild birds, but the berries found inside the birds smelled as if they were fermenting.

Three tissue samples from the dead birds were sent for toxicological analysis, one of which revealed high levels of pure alcohol (ethanol). Staff at the wildlife rescue centre to which the live bird was sent also reported that it had been unsteady on its feet and appeared "drunk."

The bird had had to place its wings on the ground to steady itself, and had leant against the walls of its enclosure to keep upright, they said. After two days the bird fully recovered and was released back into the wild.

The authors can't explain why only one of the samples revealed the presence of ethanol, but suspect that all the dead birds had become intoxicated on fermented berries, and that some of the injuries they had sustained were the result of mid-air collisions.

The berries on the ground were damaged, so would have been vulnerable to yeast infestation, which would have precipitated fermentation and subsequent alcohol production, they explain.

The authors say that they can't prove that the birds died after consuming too much alcohol, but they refer to a similar diagnosis made in 1999 of redwings who had been feeding on holly berries.

Several of these birds were seen falling out of the holly tree onto the concrete below. Laboratory analysis did not reveal any hazardous chemicals, but holly berries were found in their crops and gizzards, samples of which contained high levels of alcohol.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. P. Duff, J. P. Holmes, P. Streete. Suspected ethanol toxicity in juvenile blackbirds and redwings. Veterinary Record, 2012; 171 (18): 453 DOI: 10.1136/vr.e7322

Cite This Page:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Young birds can get 'drunk' on fermented berries: Effects similar to those for people, only drunk birds have much further to fall." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121102205132.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2012, November 2). Young birds can get 'drunk' on fermented berries: Effects similar to those for people, only drunk birds have much further to fall. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121102205132.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Young birds can get 'drunk' on fermented berries: Effects similar to those for people, only drunk birds have much further to fall." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121102205132.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins