Riddle of the drunken parrots out of their trees
Published 03/06/2010 | 05:00
The staggering gait, the mood swings and the headaches will be familiar to anyone who has indulged in a big night out.
But in Darwin, Australia, it is not the people who are behaving like drunks, but the native parrots that are falling out of the sky.
Darwin's red-collared lorrikeets are suffering from a puzzling condition, with symptoms strikingly similar to those that accompany inebriation. Hundreds have been treated in animal hospitals, where they are fed sweetened porridge and fresh fruit -- the avian equivalent of a hangover cure.
In recent weeks the brightly coloured birds have been observed falling out of trees, stumbling around the streets and crash-landing when they attempt to fly. Those recovering in hospital are said to be dishevelled, disoriented and grumpy.
"They sit on the floor of the cage and rest their heads on the side," said Lisa Hansen, a veterinary surgeon at the Ark Animal Hospital in Palmerston, near Darwin.
Ms Hansen said it was unclear what was causing the unusual behaviour, but theories ranged from a mystery virus to fermented nectar from a plant they may have been eating.
The cages, where the lorrikeets are fed "the equivalent of ice cream and cans of Coke", according to Ms Hansen, are like sobering-up shelters. But some birds never recover. (© Independent News Service)