Birds do not have teeth. Even that one you’re thinking of that kind of looks like it has teeth. No, not ducks either. Some birds have somewhat of a serrated bill which helps them to grip prey. Like this Snowy Egret. He deals in slimy, squirmy fishes so he must have some sort of uneven surface on the occlusal surfaces of his bill to keep the fish in check.
So how do they chew their food then? They don’t. Ever. They have an organ called the ventriculus (gizzard) that acts as a mechanical stomach. Two strong muscles surround and contract the walls of the ventriculus to grind and mash up food.
You might have heard that poultry birds ingest small stones to aid in digestion. True. The stones, softened by the acidic environment that precedes the ventriculus, are eventually ground down to tiny pieces that pass through the rest of the digestive tract. While in the ventriculus, the “grit” as it is sometimes called, helps provide a solid surface to create friction between the food and ventriculus thus grinding it down more efficiently.
Just because birds don’t have to chew does not mean that swallowing food is always easy. Check out our Snowy Egret friend trying to manage a piece of fish.
As if the ventriculus wasn’t already cool enough, there is another organ in the avian digestive system that might be as interesting. The crop. It’s a tiny pouch toward the posterior end of the esophagus where newly consumed meals and water are stored. As the crop empties and food makes its way toward the ventriculus, the bird’s brain receives hunger signals telling it that it’s time to eat more food.
At least, I find it cool.
Enjoy these next few photos of our egret filling up on fish.
Makes me long for some of that halibut I ate the other night here in Newfoundland.
Listen, if you’re anywhere near Naples, FL, you have to check out the pier. Especially for sunset but take what you can get. Trust me. And if you’re patient, you’ll probably see dolphins. Examine the photos below to see if you can find the dolphins I was fortunate enough to see.