Suspected flu birds were 'drunk'

Experts who conducted tests on 40 songbirds found dead in Vienna say they didn’t die of bird flu as initially feared, but slammed into windows after becoming intoxicated from eating fermented berries.

The birds – whose remains were carefully examined to ensure they were not victims of avian influenza – had livers so diseased “they looked like they were chronic alcoholics,” Sonja Wehsely, a spokeswoman for Vienna’s veterinary authority, told Austrian television today.

All died of broken necks after slamming into windowpanes, apparently after gorging themselves on berries that had begun to rot, turning the juice inside to alcohol, Wehsely said.

She said the juice probably continued to ferment as the birds digested the berries, causing them to become disoriented and fly into the panes.

Their discovery last month in a residential neighbourhood of Vienna had triggered concerns that bird flu had reached the Austrian capital.

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