How Birds Chew

Cedar waxwing about to swallow whole fruit (photo by Steve Gosser)

28 October 2021

Have you ever noticed that birds gulp their food? Of course they don’t chew — they don’t have teeth — but much of what they eat still has to be “chewed” before they can digest it.

That’s where grit comes in.

Gravel (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Birds chew with their gizzards, a specialized stomach with thick muscular walls that grind up food, often aided by particles of stone or grit.

Diagram of bird digestive system, annotated (image from PA Game Commission)

Birds regularly eat grit to aid their digestion, as Ecco is doing in the photo below.

Peregrine falcon, Ecco, ingesting gravel (photo from the National Aviary snaphot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

So when you see birds swallowing things whole rest assured they’re chewing inside … in the gizzard.

Red-tailed hawk with prey (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

p.s. Other animals have gizzards too including crocodiles, alligators, mullet (a fish) and earthworms.

(photos from Steve Gosser, Wikimedia Commons, and the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

2 thoughts on “How Birds Chew

  1. I agree with the other comments that I always am learning new things from you, Miss Kate. I am so appreciative. However, I have to say after reading this…..I may pass on the turkey gizzard this Thanksgiving!! 🙂

  2. Mullets? They jump six feet out of the water where I live in coastal NC, and for months. Just tapering down now, in fact. I read that it’s not completely understood why they do it. And now they have gizzards?

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