Birds Slur When They Sing After Too Much Booze, Just Like Us

Anyone who’s ever had a Drunk Uncle Hal knows that a natural result of imbibing a bit too much fire water is the propensity to slur, when talking, or when singing at the top of one’s lungs about all the joys of life. We are not alone in our slippery-tongued warbling, however, as one study says birds get a bit loose beaked after a stiff drink, too.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University say in a study published this month in PLOS ONE that a kind of songbird called the zebra finch slurs its songs when drunk.

While one might imagine scientists setting up a tiny bar (and high expectations in life) for the birds and letting’em slam shots, in reality they were served a mixture of grape juice and ethanol.

The result sounds much like a scene out of any late night bar where the feelings are warm and the mood is right — birds ended up singing songs with “altered” acoustics. Most likely to the tune of “Danny Boy.”

“The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy, the latter likely reflecting a disruption in the birds’ ability to maintain the spectral structure of song under alcohol,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, specific syllables, which have distinct acoustic structures, were differentially influenced by alcohol, likely reflecting a diversity in the neural mechanisms required for their production.”

So what’s this got to do with us? It could help researchers understand why we act how we act when we’re boozing, researchers explain. Because we’re all just a bunch of drunk birds with a song to sing.

Drinking Songs: Alcohol Effects on Learned Song of Zebra Finches [PLOS ONE]

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