There are few sounds in the world more annoying than a drunk person singing: Everything’s off tune, out of time, and slurred up to sap any musical joy. The only upside is that it can serve as a warning that someone you want to avoid may be approaching you. For an experiment that seems like an idea borne in a frat house dorm room, researchers at Oregon Health and Science University wanted to find out if alcohol has the same effect on the singing of birds.
One of the researchers, Mark Olson, tells NPR that they used zebra finches for the study and mixed juice with 6 percent alcohol until the birds reached the legal limit for driving. For the average human, being wasted with a .08 percent blood alcohol level would land them squarely in the light-weight category, but birds metabolize alcohol differently, so they were plenty sloshed.
You can hear the difference in an audio clip right here starting around the 1:55 mark. If you don’t speak bird, the change between sober and drunk might seem subtle, but the finches get a little slower, a little more slurred, and as Olson puts it, “a bit less organized in their sound production.”
Olson may have found the answer to his question, but these birds are probably going to be pissed to find they’re no longer sipping on gin and juice now that the study’s over.