Humming Bar

Flying under the influence?


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


We’re not the only creatures that drink alcohol. Birds do too. Over time, some of the sugar in bird feeders and the nectar in flowers ferments into booze. And hummingbirds… drink up to eight percent of their body mass from these sources. Are they getting drunk? Is it on purpose?


Julia Choi and a team from UC Berkeley were curious. 


They set up two hummingbird feeders – one with one percent alcohol and one without. And? 


They found hummingbirds drank equal amounts of alcoholic and plain sugar-water. However, when the alcohol concentration was doubled to two percent they drank half as much. This suggests that hummingbirds sense alcohol and have a limit. 


Their fast metabolism means it’s unlikely they’re getting drunk. But, there are still possible behavioral effects. Researchers hope to investigate that next. 


Me? I’m thinking of opening a new bird bath in my backyard. It’ll be called… Humming-bar! Gonna tweet about it.


Choi, J., Lee, L., Maro, A., Corl, A., McGuire, J. A., Bowie, R. C., & Dudley, R. (2023). Hummingbird ingestion of low-concentration ethanol within artificial nectar. Royal Society Open Science, 10(6).