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5 Fast Facts About Drunk Birds

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istock collage

Every wet season, helpless Australians watch as wasted parrots rain down from their skies. Elsewhere, flocks of tipsy songbirds are constantly smacking into windows, towers, and moving cars. What’s behind this airborne alcoholism? Fermented berries and nectars, which can make life miserable for careless avians. Here’s a quick primer on winged boozers. 

1. Inebriated Birds Slur Their Songs.

Pro tip: Don’t drink and tweet. In an offbeat study conducted last year at Oregon Science & Health University, captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) received spiked drinking water. According to researcher Christopher R. Olson, the alcohol rendered these test subjects “a little bit quieter” than normal and “less organized in their sound production.” Everyone’s got a buddy like that.

2. Finches Are Real Lightweights.

“We’ve yet to invent the bird breathalyzer, but we can take a small blood sample,” Olson says. By doing so, his team found that the zebra finches started acting tipsy when their blood alcohol levels reached .05 to .08 percent—just below America’s legal driving limit. Also, sobering up can be a long, arduous process because birds don’t metabolize ethanol efficiently.

3. Certain Species Have Throats that Help Get Them Drunker.

With an atypically-large liver, you’d think the Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulous) would have no trouble drinking its pals under the birdfeeder. However, as Hank Green explains above, another trait makes waxwings especially bad at handling the hard stuff: Their very stretchable esophaguses often double as temporary storage units wherein fruit can ferment internally.

4. Some Drunk Birds Will Keep Upright by Leaning on Walls.

Another tactic involves using their own wings to prop themselves up when flying’s out of the question.    

5. Avians May Learn to Identify Fruits That Can Get Them Hammered.

In 2011, a dozen English blackbirds (Turdus merula) were found lying dead for no apparent reason—until autopsies revealed fermented berries in their stomachs. Curiously, the victims were all adolescents. Why? Scientists can’t be certain, but it’s been suggested that blackbirds start to distinguish between safe and hazardous berries as they grow.

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]


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