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Australian Parrots Left 'Drunk' By Mystery Avian Illness, Perplexing Vets

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An as-yet-unidentified seasonal illness is affecting flocks of Australian red collar parrots, who apparently exhibit symptoms comparable to human drunkenness before recovering.

In Darwin -- where a local animal hospital is reportedly caring for about 30 birds at time, with roughly eight new "patients" arriving each day -- veterinarians say the lorikeets appear inebriated, and lose all physical coordination before passing out. As they wake up, sources say, the birds cower in cages, where they seem to be recovering from "hangovers."

Lisa Hansen, a veterinary surgeon at the Ark Animal Hospital in Palmerston, near Darwin, told reporters the lorikeets "definitely seem like they're drunk. They fall out of trees ... and they're not so coordinated as they would normally be. They go to jump and they miss the next perch."

Though wildlife experts warn affected birds could die without proper care, the illness -- the cause of which is still unknown -- appears to be seasonal, with many of the lorikeets recovering within a few weeks. At Ark Animal Hospital, Hansen said the birds were being treated with avian versions of "hangover food," such as sweetened porridge and fresh fruit.

"It's probably the equivalent of ice cream and cans of Coke for the lorikeets," Hansen said.