THE PARROT DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
by Sally Blanchard
- A few years back I read some nonsense that vegetables weren't good for parrots because they can't digest them. A parrot's digestive system is very effective and has no trouble with vegetables - raw or cooked.
1. Parrots masticate and manipulate their food with powerful beaks and their powerful tongue before swallowing it so they usually only ingest the softer parts or smaller pieces of food. There is saliva in the back of the mouth which starts the digestive process.
2. It then travels down a short esophagus to the crop. Once in the crop, the food goes through various digestive processes as the nutrients start to metabolize. (The parent parrot's crop contains all sorts of "goodies" that help boost the immune system of baby parrots.)
3. Food is then broken down by gastric juices in the proventriculus. Then the inside lining of the muscular ventriculus (gizzard) secretes a keratin-like fluid which hardens around food and aids in grinding any hard food. (Note: Grit/gravel is unnecessary and can even be dangerous for parrots (including budgie and 'tiel) diets because this keratin surface is hard enough to grind foods. Through the years, I have known of several parrots who have become seriously ill from grit/gravel impaction in their digestive system because they have been given free access to it in their diets. This can result in illness and even death because they can't metabolize the nutrients in their food.)
4. From the ventriculus, food moves into the duodenum where bile secretions continue to break it down. Then it passes through the rest of the small intestine and into the large intestine for additional digestion.
5. Finally, wastes are stored for a short time in the cloaca (derived from the Latin word for sewer) until they are passed from the body through the cloacal orifice or vent. These are called droppings or birdie poop. Parrots can't and shouldn't have to hold their droppings for very long. Bird droppings will reflect the color and consistency of the food they have been eating.