| Humans are not the only animals to enjoy alcohol|
|My trips to the bottle bank usually make for interesting natural historical excursions. In summer, the empties and jars have an assorted burden of slugs and snails, which I try to salvage before they vanish into the bank's thickly whiskered maw. In winter, the mice somehow get into our storage bins to enjoy the dregs and the residue of sugars. I am alerted to their visits by the droppings, but also because they like to shred the plastic bags before slaking their thirst. Yet I have a suspicion that these nocturnal activities among our bottles are more than a calorific necessity in hard times. There is widespread evidence that animals other than ourselves enjoy alcohol.|
The story of African elephants becoming inebriated on fermented marula fruits has more recently been debunked despite widespread historical claims. However, a number of birds have been recorded to take pleasure in drink. There's a wonderful story of waxwings in North America so tanked up on rotting chokecherries that they tottered unsteadily along the branches using outstretched wings to balance, while some fell completely off their perches and could only respond to the observers by hissing like snakes. The bananaquit of Latin America also has a taste for alcohol of 4-6% proof and an even more remarkable capacity to be unaffected by the intake. To some people the species is possibly better known as the yellow bird in the Caribbean calypso song of the same name. (One wonders, incidentally, if the bananaquit's penchant for alcohol gave rise to a delicious-sounding cocktail called Yellow Bird that includes rum and crème de banane.)
Alas, the latest bottle bank excursion produced rather sad evidence of a rodent's pleasure in red wine. What was probably a wood mouse had somehow squeezed through the 15mm bottleneck but had then been too tipsy to find the exit. One can only hope that its passage into oblivion was softened by the cherry and vanilla notes of a rather good rioja.