Red-collared lorikeets are a type of parrot. It seems more and more of them in Darwin are experiencing an apparent state of drunkenness, falling out of the air, stumbling, and sometimes even passing out. It started with just a few birds, but the numbers have been growing each season. One explanation offered is they are consuming fermented eucalyptus nectar, and the nectar is fermenting earlier and for longer periods of time due to hotter weather.
“We are fairly certain it’s a plant, but we don’t know which plant. People talk about seeing drunken birds under umbrella trees when they are flowering. However, most say those birds recovered and flew away afterwards. That is not happening to these guys… sometimes they need intensive care before we can put them out in the aviaries,” said an animal hospital worker who has treated the stricken birds. (Source: Australiangeographic.com) The bird’s unusual behavior could be the result of alcohol poisoning. It has also been suggested that a virus is involved along with the effects from consuming fermented fruit. This year local people are expecting hundreds of sick birds between the end of the dry season and the beginning of the wet.
Ten years ago, there were only about two or three sick birds. When they appear and the drunken state takes effect, the birds lose their natural inhibitions and get closer to people, which puts them in some danger of accidents such as getting stepped on, or run over.
Red collared lorikeets are not endangered, but some are, such as the ultramarine lorikeet which lives in the Marquesas.
Image Credit: Ted