It’s drunken parrot season in northern Australia!
October is when the wet season arrives in Australia’s Northern Territory and with it comes another, far more interesting and uniquely Australian phenomenon: drunken parrot season! Like a weird, avian spring break, every year around this time hundreds of birds – specifically red-collared lorikeets – in and around the city of Darwin begin acting as though they’re drunk.
“They exhibit odd behavior like falling over or [having] difficulty flying [and] they keep running into things,” veterinarian Dr. Stephen Cutter told Australian Geographic. They also lose their fear of people and begin to act much friendlier than normal; of the thousands that gather at a market in the city, many of them are sometimes “left floundering.”
It sure sounds like they’re soused – I do pretty much the same thing when I get tanked up – but whether or not they’re actually bombed is a mystery. For one thing, the effects lasts for a couple of days rather than just a single Saturday night, and the birds also display less amusing symptoms including respiratory problems and discharge from their nostrils, mouth and eyes. One possibility is that the birds are suffering from both a seasonal virus and the effects of alcohol ingested from fermenting fruit.
Whatever’s causing it, Wildcare Inc. NT President Mignon McHendrie says that more and more birds turn up “drunk” every year and that roughly half of those brought into her shelter will die. Ten years ago her organization took in only two or three of the birds, but last year it dealt with a few hundred.