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Drunken parrots party in the botanic gardens 29 October 2004 By RICHARD MACEY
SYDNEY: Visitors to Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens may need to keep an eye out over the next few weeks for paralytic parrots.
The city's rainbow lorikeets have began flocking to the gardens to indulge in the nectar of Schotia brachypetala, a tree that is now flowering.
"It produces a lot of sweet nectar, a nectar that is a sugary juice. If it ferments in the heat of the sun it can produce alcohol," the gardens' curator, Ian Innes, said yesterday.
Birds over-indulging on the tree appeared to become tipsy, he said. Parrots tucking into the nectar yesterday ignored a Herald photographer, who was able to approach within a few centimetres. They interrupted their partying only for an occasional vigorous shake of their heads.
Larry Vogelnest, senior veterinarian at Taronga Zoo, said lorikeets in northern Australia were known to become intoxicated on fermenting fruit. "Basically they behave like drunk people, staggering around and unco-ordinated."
But Dr Vogelnest said the reported behaviour yesterday of the birds in the gardens made him wonder if there was "something else in the nectar, some chemical agent, rather than ethanol ... that is making them high".
"The lorikeets get right into it," said Mr Innes. The tree's spectacular red flowers had been opening this week, to the delight of the birds. "It gradually opens, a few flowers each day. It will be at its best this week and next week."
He said the tree, a member of the pea family, was not widely grown in Australia. "It is only grown in a few botanic gardens and in some very old colonial gardens."
While the specimen in the gardens was just seven or eight metres tall and only 25 years old, bigger ones dripped with nectar. "Camden Park [the old Macarthur estate near Camden] has a very old one," he said. "It is easily double the size of ours."
Although most of the tired and emotional customers patronising the gardens' tree this week have been parrots, Mr Innes expected cockatoos would soon learn about the venue before it inevitably closes for business again in a few weeks. "I am sure they will have a go at it."
Re: Drunken parrots party in the botanic gardens [Re: Sheepish] #3296985 - 10/30/04 12:28 PM (16 years, 4 months ago)