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Scientists Got Some Birds Drunk To See If It Has Any Effect On Their Singing

"Should auld acquaintance be (hiccup)." —A bird

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To try to better understand humans' speech impairment after having a few too many, scientists let some birds drink the fowl equivalent of jungle juice to answer one question: Would it affect their vocals?

Raj Kamal/Raj Kamal

Researchers chose zebra finches (pictured above) as their subjects, mainly because the songbirds learn to communicate vocally similar to how we learn to talk — a trait that's been found in only a handful of other species, including some marine mammals and bats.

After feeding the finches juice with 6% alcohol in it, the birds' songs got a little wonky.

Wilamoyo/Wilamoyo

"At first we were thinking that they wouldn't drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won't touch the stuff," lead researcher Christopher Olson told NPR's All Things Considered. "But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it."

With their blood alcohol levels ranging from .05% to .08%, the finches appeared to be acting normal — that is, until they opened their beaks.

Jim Bendon / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: jim_bendon_1957

Though their motor functions were the same, their singing got quieter, and they were less able keep the structure of their song.

The differences are actually incredibly difficult to discern, as evidenced by the audio segment.

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