Anyone who’s ever visited a karaoke bar is likely very familiar with the fact that people sing a lot differently when they’re drunk, versus when sober. Guess what? It turns out that the same goes for birds. A group of scientists at Oregon Health and Science University have found that just like singing off-key, slurring, and missing cues are just a few ways that our boozehound friends will mangle tunes after they’ve knocked back a few, songbirds who imbibe react the exact same way… minus the drunk-dialling later, of course.

Zebra Finch Singing


Christopher Olson, a neuroscientist at the University, is working with a group of colleagues to study alcohol’s effect on brain development, language-learning, and general vocalization. Since zebra finches are used as models for human communication—they learn language by hearing and mimicking it the same way that we do—the scientists decided to serve up some libations and see what happened.

They mixed 6 percent alcohol with a bit of juice and added that to the birds‘ water bottles, then stood back to see what happened. Although most animals avoid anything alcoholic, the finches showed an interest in their boozy breakfast, and the effects were soon noticeable. Their blood alcohol level ended up being between 0.05 and 0.07, so just below the legal drinking limit, and their garbled vocalizations were very similar to those of humans who reach a similar level of intoxication.


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