A Birds Digestive System

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Keep Your Bird’s Digestive System Healthy
Mumme examined plumage pattern and tail-spreading behavior to see how they affected flush—pursuit foraging performance of the Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus in Costa Rica. Note the distended throat of this American Kestrel. Within 14 days, they showed a doubling of the size of their gizzards. So, the beak must be rigid enough to resist bending and twisting forces, but has to be light or the bird couldn't get off the ground. Here the food is massaged to aid digestion and allow the acidic conditions to take effect. An animal's body breaks down food through both mechanical and chemical means.

ADDITIONAL MEDIA

Avian Digestive System

To keep your birds healthy, focus on keeping their digestive system balanced through a balanced diet. Three keys to achieving internal bird health are: The digestive tract is also known as the gastrointestinal tract and is responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients. For your birds to properly breakdown feed, a lot must go correctly in the digestive tract. Birds gather and eat feed. The feed travels to the foregut esophagus, crop, proventriculus and gizzard where it is digested and prepared for absorption.

The ceca plural form of cecum are two blind pouches located where the small and large intestines join. Some of the water remaining in the digested material is reabsorbed here. Another important function of the ceca is the fermentation of any remaining coarse materials. During this fermentation, the ceca produce several fatty acids as well as the eight B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and vitamin B Because the ceca are located so close to the end of the digestive tract, however, few of the produced nutrients are absorbed and available to the chicken.

Despite the name, the large intestine is actually shorter than the small intestine. The large intestine is where the last of the water reabsorption occurs. In the cloaca, the digestive wastes mix with wastes from the urinary system urates.

Chickens usually void fecal material as digestive waste with uric acid crystals on the outer surface—that is, chickens do not urinate. The color and texture of chicken fecal material can indicate the health status of the chicken's digestive tract: The reproductive tract also exits through this area.

When a hen lays an egg, the vagina folds over to allow the egg to leave through the cloaca opening without coming into contact with feces or urine. These microflora aid in digestion. When chicks hatch, their digestive tracts are virtually sterile. If raised by a mother hen, a chick obtains the beneficial microflora by consuming some of its mother's fecal material. In artificial incubation and brooding, chicks do not have this option.

Through the probiotics, the chicks receive the beneficial bacteria they need to fight off infection by pathogenic bacteria, such as salmonella. Intestinal disease in chickens normally occurs when the balance of normal microflora is upset—that is, the normal microflora are overrun by too many foreign organisms.

The result is enteritis, or inflammation of the intestines. Enteritis produces symptoms that include diarrhea, increased thirst, dehydration, loss of appetite, weakness, and weight loss or slow growth. Try asking one of our Experts. This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by eXtension. View publishing information about this page.

Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky An understanding of the avian digestive system is essential for developing an effective and economical feeding program for your poultry flock and for recognizing when something is wrong and taking necessary actions to correct the problem. Parts of a Chicken Digestive Tract The chicken has a typical avian digestive system. Digestive tract of a female chicken.

Location of the digestive tract in a female chicken. Esophagus The esophagus is a flexible tube that connects the mouth with the rest of the digestive tract.

Crop The crop is an out-pocketing of the esophagus and is located just outside the body cavity in the neck region see Figure 3. Journal of Anatomy Light and scanning electron microscopic study of the tongue in the cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Phalacrocoracidae, Aves.

Functional morphology of the tongue in the nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes. A tropical horde of counterfeit predator eyes. Instructed learning in the auditory localization pathway of the Barn Owl. The morphology of the bill apparatus in the Steller's Sea Eagle. Wild Bird Society of Japan, Tokyo. Use of dung as a tool by burrowing owls. The integration of energy and nitrogen balance in the hummingbird Sephanoides sephaniodes. Does gut function limit hummingbird food intake?

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology Pressures produced when penguins pooh—calculations on avian defaecation. Scare tactics in a neotropical warbler: Gliding flight and soaring. Theoretical Ecology Series, vol. Modelling the flying bird C. Structure, form, and function of flight in engineering and the living world. Phenotypic flexibility and the evolution of organismal design. Trends in Ecology and Evolution The hummingbird tongue is a fluid trap, not a capillary tube.

Between air and water: Use of prey hotspots by an avian predator: Structure and mechanical behavior of a toucan beak. Movement and direction of movement of a simulated prey affect the success rate in Barn Owl Tyto alba attack.

Musculoskeletal underpinnings to differences in killing behavior between North American accipiters Falconiformes: Accipitridae and falcons Falconidae.

Journal of Morphology, online early. Le Bohec, and Y. Adjustments of gastric pH, motility and temperature during long-term preservation of stomach contents in free-ranging incubating King Penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology A tough nut to crack. Adaptations to seed cracking in finches. Cost-benefit analysis of mollusc-eating in a shorebird. Optimizing gizzard size in the face of seasonal demands. How do woodpeckers extract grubs with their tongues? Why do woodpeckers resist head impact injury: Functional morphology of raptor hindlimbs: The turning- and linear-maneuvering performance of birds: Canadian Journal of Zoology Hummingbird jaw bends to aid insect capture.

A mechanical analysis of woodpecker drumming and its application to shock-absorbing systems. I - Introduction to Birds. VII - Circulatory System.

Back to Avian Biology. Drawings of the digestive tracts of A a Greylag Goose and B a Wild Turkey and retention times of a solute, 2-mm particles, and 8-mm particles in the goose and turkey digestive systems Figure from Frei et al. The closed, air-filled spaces reduce overall weight without loss of rigidity. The capillary ratchet mechanism Surface tension transport of prey by feeding shorebirds: The serrated leading-edge feather of an owl Norberg Vortex generators on an airplane wing.

Fish-eating species like cormorants below - typically have small, undifferentiated tongue because fish are often swallowed whole.

Representative caterpillar false eyes and faces. In some, like woodpeckers, the 'sticky' saliva aids in capturing prey. In others, like swifts, saliva is used in nest building see photo below. The muscular walls of the esophagus produce wave-like contractions peristalsis that help propel food from the oral cavity to the stomach. Anhinga swallowing a large fish. HCL and pepsinogen are secreted by the deep glands see photomicrograph below.

Pepsinogen is converted into pepsin a proteolytic, or protein-digesting, enzyme by the HCl. The cuticle is secreted by simple tubular glands see photomicrograph below.

Grinding action may, particularly in seed-eating birds, be assisted by grit and stones deliberately ingested. The avian gastrointestinal tract, unlike that of mammals, executes distinct reverse peristaltic movements that are critical to optimal digestive function Duke The gastric reflux allows material in the gizzard to reenter the proventriculus for additional treatment with acid and pepsin.

Villi are projections from the intestinal wall that increase the amount of surface area available for absorption. Further increasing the surface area are the numerous microvilli of the cells lining the surface of the villi. Inside each villus are blood vessels that absorb nutrients for transport throughout the body.

Caeca are histologically similar to the small and large intestines and found in a wide variety of birds. In these large ceca, food particles are acted upon by cecal secretions, bacteria, and fungi and nutrients can be absorbed. Lymphoid ceca are not important in digestion but contain lymphocytes white blood cells that produce antibodies Clench At various times and under various conditions, ceca are the site for 1 fermentation and further digestion of food especially for the breakdown of cellulose and absorption of nutrients, 2 production of antibodies, and 3 the use and absorption of water and nitrogenous components Clench The bursa is most prominent in young birds and serves as the area where B-lymphocytes the white blood cells that produce antibodies are generated T-lymphocytes are generated in the Thymus.

Bile emulsifies fats or, in other words, breaks fats down into tiny particles. Emulsification is important because it physically breaks down fats into particles than can then be more easily digested by enzymes lipase produced by intestinal cells and the pancreas. This 'juice' contains a bicarbonate solution that helps neutralize the acids coming into the intestine from the stomach plus a variety of digestive enzymes.

The enzymes help break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The pancreas also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon which regulate blood sugar levels cells that produce these two hormones make up the 'islets of Langerhans', one of which is represented by the light-colored, circular structure in the photomicrograph below.

Hit 'Reload' or 'Refresh' to View Again! Particle retention time hr. Flamingos use a series of projections, or lamellae, to filter tiny food items from debris in the water.

Wrens use their thin, probing bill to capture small insects. Curlews use their long bill to probe mudflats for small invertebrates. Finches do not simply bite the seeds; instead; the lower mandible is moved toward the tip of the bill in a slicing motion. When most of the coat has been cracked or removed, the lower mandible is moved from side to side to remove the rest of the shell, thus releasing the kernel. Some large finches also have raised hard surfaces in the upper palate that function as anvils so large seeds can be held firmly while the lower mandible slices and cracks the sides of the seed.

As tricky as nutcracking sounds, most birds accomplish it rapidly, shelling small seeds in a few seconds and large finches can crack open and devour a large seed or nut in less than twenty seconds.

Big mouths get hummingbirds an in-flight meal - Hummingbirds have bendy lower beaks to help them catch insects Yanega and Rubega The flexibility allows long-beaked birds to open their mouths wide enough to hunt on the wing.

Hummingbirds use their long, narrow beaks to probe flowers for nectar, but they also need insects for essential nutrients. It wasn't clear how they could catch them; birds that hunt flying insects usually have short beaks to help them open their mouths wide. Pilcher, Nature Science Update. The force produced by talons may be related to time of activity.

Owls hunt when light levels are low so if an attacking owl misses its prey, relocating it may be difficult. Hawks are diurnal hunters and can use visual cues during and after an attack. If unable to subdue prey initially, they can relocate prey visually and catch it. Given the morphological differences and hunting behaviors of these raptors, how well do those characteristics relate to prey-size selection?

Eastern Screech-Owls prey on insects, small birds, and small mammals. Red-tailed Hawks subsist primarily on rodents and larger mammals such as skunks and rabbits. Red-shouldered Hawks , like Barred Owls, subsist mainly on medium-sized mammals such as squirrels and chipmunks, but also prey on frogs and salamanders. American Kestrels , like Eastern Screech-Owls, eat mostly insects and small mammals. Bristles occur most prominently around the eyes "eyelashes" , the lores, the nostrils, and around the rictus corners of the mouth.

Not all birds have bristles. Rictal bristles are prominent in many insectivorous birds, particularly aerial insectivores like nightjars Order Caprimulgiformes and flycatchers Family Tyrannidae , and may be used as sensory organs to help locate and capture prey, much like mammals use whiskers. In addition, bristles around the mouth may help protect the eyes from food items a bird is trying to capture Conover and Miller The photo to the right shows the rictal bristles of a Hooded Warbler.

Goose tongue -- The dorsal surface of the tongue of Middendorff's Bean Goose Anser fabalis middendorffii has an anterior region that extends for five-sixths of its length plus a posterior region. Large conical papillae indicated by arrowhead to the right are located in a row between the anterior and posterior regions.

On both sides of the anterior region, lingual papillae are compactly distributed, and small numbers of large conical papillae are found between the lingual papillae. The dorsal surface of the tongue is covered by numerous fine processes, which help hold food on the tongue's surface. The taste buds of birds may be located in the upper beak epithelium, in the anterior mandible, and the mandibular epithelium posterior to the tongue. Some taste buds are also located ventrolaterally on the anterior tongue.

Arrows show lingual hairs on the lateral sides. Lingual papillae arrows are compactly distributed on the tongue, and large conical papillae arrowhead are scattered among them. Energy and nitrogen balance in a hummingbird -- Keeping fit and healthy on a low-fat, fiber-free diet isn't easy, but despite the nutritional disadvantages of life on a liquid lunch, hummingbirds flourish by supplementing their nectar intake with tiny arthropods.

But the beneficial snacks come at a high metabolic price; flies don't sit still, so hummingbirds work hard chasing their protein. Back in the lab, the team prepared nectar solutions with different concentrations of amino acids to see how much protein the birds needed to maintain a stable body weight.

By filming the birds as they sipped from feeders, they measured the amount of energy and nitrogen that the birds consumed. To calculate the bird's nitrogen uptake, they also needed to know how much waste nitrogen the birds lost.

So, they collected all of the birds' feces, making sure that none dried out, and measured the nitrogen content. Not surprisingly, the birds that were fed small amounts of protein began losing weight quickly, even though they were able to sip as much high-energy nectar as they wanted. However, the birds that were fed 1. What does that translate to in terms of flies? The birds that had a reduced nectar supply also maintained a stable weight, although they went into torpor overnight to conserve energy.

But the birds fed flies alone began losing weight, no matter how hard they worked to feed themselves. She suspects that although the flies should supply all of the hummingbirds needs, the birds simply have to work too hard to catch flies to rely on them as their soul food source. Flush—pursuit foragers use exaggerated and animated foraging movements to flush potential insect prey that are then pursued and captured in flight. The Myioborus redstarts comprise 12 species of flush—pursuit warblers found in montane forests of the American tropics and subtropics.

All members of the genus have contrasting black-and-white tail feathers that are exposed by spreading the tail during foraging. Mumme examined plumage pattern and tail-spreading behavior to see how they affected flush—pursuit foraging performance of the Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus in Costa Rica. Although flycatching was the most common foraging tactic used by Slate-throated Redstarts, flush—pursuit prey attacks occurred more frequently following hops in the spread-tail foraging posture than hops in more typical warbler-like posture, suggesting that tail-spreading behavior assists in startling and flushing potential insect prey.

The hypothesis that the white tail feathers enhance flush—pursuit foraging was tested by means of a plumage-dyeing experiment. After locating nests, Mumme captured the male and female and assigned one member of each pair to the experimental treatment group; its mate served as a control. For experimental birds, a permanent marker was used to blacken the white tips of the three outer retrices.

For experimental birds, only 7. These results indicate that white tail feathers are critically important in startling potential prey. The owls ate 10 times more beetles when the dung was present, suggesting the waste did not build up by accident. Burrowing Owls make their nests in small tunnels, and place a variety of debris, including dung, at the entrance.

After finding that Burrowing Owls also had a high concentration of dung beetles in their diet, Levey et al. To test this hypothesis, they cleared all nest entrances at two colonies of owls of debris, then one owl colony had a typical littering of dung applied while the other was left bare.

Parts of a Chicken Digestive Tract