Drunk as a goose

I almost didn’t stop to photograph this pair of Cape Barren Geese but they were close to the track and weren’t bothered when I slowly pulled up beside them. It’s the first time I’ve seen anything that looked like an inebriated bird, and it seemed strangely appropriate in the middle of the festive season.


Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 400


The first odd behaviour I noticed was that they frequently opened their bills, as though they were panting, but it was a cool morning. They weren’t calling or yawning. The more I watched the clearer it became that they were feeling crook, or should I say, nauseous.



Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
1/1000, f/9.0, ISO 800


They seemed very relaxed but became startled if a vehicle passed by. After watching one of the vehicles the goose above seemed comically surprised to see me although I’d been with them for several minutes.

Then I became aware of the red staining on their feathers, which isn’t unusual when the saltbush berries are ripe. But it is unusual to see their bills hanging open with copious amounts of berry juice sitting in their mouths.


Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
1/1000, f/9.0, ISO 800


Their movements were odd and typical of the careful, yet uncoordinated movements of someone who has over imbibed. I did some research and although I didn’t find anything about the fermentation of saltbush berries I found information in National Geographic articles, including this link: Why Backyard Birds are Getting Drunk on Fermented Berries

I went back this morning to see if I could find berries, not that I was intending to collect them for myself! There were none in sight which makes me wonder if the geese had found some old berries that had fermented, and whether that process had occurred over the past week or so of hot weather.


Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
1/1000, f/9.0, ISO 800


And, if you’re still unconvinced, I’ve included the image above – a helicopter flew overhead and both geese almost fell over as they tried to look at it.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, fantastic and fulfilling 2018, full of birdsong and smiles



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