Opium-Addicted Parrots Are Terrorizing Poppy Farms in India

green parrot
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Poppy farmers in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India have reportedly run into some trouble while cultivating this season's crops. In addition to inconsistent rainfall putting a damper on things, flocks of persistent parrots — presumed to be addicted to opium — are rampaging through the poppy farms, sometimes making 40 visits a day to get their fix.

"One poppy flower gives around 20 to 25 grams of opium. But a large group of parrots feed on these plants around 30 to 40 times a day," one poppy cultivator in the Neemuch district of central India told Indian news site NDTV.com. "This affects the produce. These opium-addicted parrots are wreaking havoc."

According to NDTV, bird raids have become a daily menace in the poppy fields, and farmers claim to be sustaining significant crop losses thanks to these poppy-seeking parrots. Some birds have been filmed tearing into unripe poppy pods (where opium-rich milk resides), while others use their beaks and claws to snip off the plants at their stalks and fly away with entire intact pods. The Daily Mail reported that some birds have even trained themselves not to squawk when descending on the fields, swooping in and out like silent ninjas. [9 Weird Ways You Can Test Positive for Drugs]

District officials have ignored requests to help keep the feathered menace in check, the farmer told NDTV, leaving poppy purveyors to fend for themselves. Some cultivators have been forced to guard their fields day and night. Others have reportedly turned to sonic warfare, shouting at the birds through loudspeakers or detonating firecrackers in their vicinity. Unfortunately, the farmer said, these attempts have failed to mitigate crop losses.

Poppy-thieving birds are not a new occurrence in India, which is one of the few places in the world where licensed opium cultivation is allowed, according to India Today magazine. Bird raids have been reported several years in a row in multiple poppy-cultivating districts, sometimes leaving the pilfering parrots visibly intoxicated. According to a 2018 article in DNA India, the opium-munching birds were observed crashing into tree branches and "lying in the fields in a daze," only to fly off again when the narcotic effects wore off.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon Specktor

Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.