Summer’s fruitfulness holds unexpected hazards for the country’s birdlife.
Vets who investigated the deaths of 12 young blackbirds in Cumbria have concluded that they were not the victims of foul play: they were drunk.
Fermented berries lying on the ground offer an irresistible alcoholic treat. Some birds have enjoyed them so much they have become merry, then unsteady and have had to prop themselves up to avoid falling over, they say.
Unsteadiness is risky enough on the ground, but in the air and among the trees it is a serious liability. The birds were all healthy but had been injured when they were found at a primary school and the police were called.
However, another bird, found alive but “unwell”, was sent to a wildlife centre where staff observed it placing its wings on the ground to steady itself and leaning against the wall of its enclosure to hold itself upright. Post-mortem tests found high levels of alcohol in one of the birds. The researchers from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, writing in Veterinary Record, suspect the injuries sustained were from mid-air collisions.
The surviving blackbird recovered and was returned to the wild apparently unharmed.