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How Do Birds Eat If They Have No Teeth?
Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by eNature

Most people, even most kids, know that birds have no teeth.

Likewise, it’s common knowledge that quite a few birds consume almost exclusively hard foods such as grains and seeds.

So so how do birds digest these tough morsels if they can’t chew them into more edible pieces?

The answer lies in a bird’s stomach—in the lower part of its stomach, to be specific, the area called the gizzard. It’s here that the powerful mixing and gnashing of food that occurs in human mouths takes place in birds.

But rather than bicuspids, molars, and the like, the gizzard uses small rocks, shells, and sand to break apart hard foods. The bird swallows these rocks and whatnot specifically to help with digestion. And when they wear down, as inevitably happens, the bird simply passes them on as waste and consumes a fresh supply.

Almost every species of bird has a gizzard,as do some species of reptiles, earthworms and fish.  A bird’s gizzard has thick, muscular walls and is lined with a protective substance known as koiln.

So having a gizzard is a bit like having a drawer filled with spare teeth—only without the dentist’s bills!

Get more information about feeding birds »

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Comments

If gizzards in chickens and turkies work the same way, why do some people consider eating gizzards a delicacy?

Posted by Vicki K on 5/24

because any muscle that is used a lot, though it may be tough and require a lot of cooking, has developed the best flavor, and gizzards taste good.  Most packers split the organ open to remove the tough inner layer before it goes back into the turkey/chicken, and allowing it to cook thoroughly until tender.

Posted by Barbara Graham on 5/24

I have some photos of a baby porcupine which were passed on to me.  They are so absolutely precious I thought you might want them.  How can I send them from my desktop to you?

Posted by Arlene Charest on 5/25

My Unclebrother, Billy Bob Gizzard has no teeth and I was always curious as to how he masticated his food…..Dug, Elkins,W.VA.

Posted by B.Hazzard on 5/25

I’ve been raising birds for the past 50 years and one of the most important dietary items besides a good seed mixture for birds is a good quality (oyster and charcoal) grit. Seeds, grit, water, and green veggies are basic for most birds’ diets.  Birds will become sick and die if they are fed processed foods because they develop Aspergillus.  Just leave a cracker on your kitchen counter for several days and you’ll find mold similar to that which grows inside a bird’s air sacs if it is fed a diet of processed pellets without SEEDS and GRIT.

Posted by Karen Morales on 5/25

Psittacines (parrots) hull their seeds and don’t really need to consume grit or rocks so that isn’t necessary in their diet. Many times people give grit to parakeets (budgerigar - a psittacine) that can sometime cause an impacted crop (the first part of the digestive tract). Feed grit sparingly to parrots.
I disagree with Karen regarding a pelleted diet for parrots. She did not mention which type of birds she raises, but a good pellet fed along with fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, and a limited amount of seeds is a good diet for psittacines. Sprouted seeds are even better. There are however, some psittacines that do eat more seeds in the wild than others so it is important to know the wild habits and diets of your parrot. Cockateils and Budgies do eat more seeds in the wild, whereas the New World parrots, ie Macaws, Amazons, etc ... do not.

Posted by Cheryl on 5/25

Hummingbird Bath and Shower:
Fill the upper cereal-size bowls of a tiered wall fountain with 3/8-inch gravel so the water is 1/4 inch deep. Hummingbirds love to safely stand on gravel, bathe, and shower under a downspout.

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