Drunken Song. Birds Are Just Like Us

zebra finch

Now this is science we can all get behind. Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University gave zebra finches some juice with a little something else in it.

Ok, you are probably asking yourself why would researchers want to get birds drunk? The study wasn’t designed to just get birds smashed. Researchers use the finches to study human vocal learning. Birds learn how to sing much the same way we learn how to talk.

We all know what happens when a person gets drunk (slurred speech etc.) Researchers wanted to see if the same happens to birds. So, they mixed in a bit of 6% alcohol with their juice and sat back and watched.

Researcher Christopher Olson told NPR, “At first we were thinking they wouldn’t drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won’t touch the stuff. But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.”

Turns out the birds were light weights. The finches started slurring their songs with their blood alcohol levels at 0.05% to 0.08%. Granted, the finches are a lot smaller than us and metabolize alcohol differently. 0.05% was enough to get them sloshed.

Researchers noted “decreased amplitude and increased entropy” in their study. That means the songs were quieter and less organized. The researchers did note “specific syllables, which have distinct acoustic structures, were differentially influenced by alcohol, likely reflecting a diversity in the neural mechanisms required for their production.”

Olson and his colleagues will continue to show the birds a good time. In a future study, they will look at how alcohol consumption may affect the birds’ ability to learn new songs. I’m going to say it probably will. Ask any hungover college student how the following day’s class went.

Image credit: Gil Dekel, Wikipedia

zebra finch
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