Burien, Washington

Andy Waters, Pat Toth, Rhonda Ham

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Burien, Washington

15858 First Avenue South #106
Burien, WA 98148

Phone: (206) 241-3201
Fax: (206) 241-3741
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Located near Trader Joe's at the Five Corners shopping mall

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Mewsings from Millie

Hello and welcome back to my musings!

I was pawing through some issues of BirdWatching magazine and noticed an article entitled Amazing Birds. It was written by Eldon Greij, the founding editor of Birder's World magazine. He explores and explains fascinating aspects of birds and their world.

For example, did you know that long ago in prehistoric times birds had teeth? As birds evolved and modified their bodies for flight, bones were lost, some were fused together and heavy, compact bone was replaced by lighter, spongy bone. This was most evident in the skull. The jaws of birds became smaller and more delicate meaning the teeth had to go. The molars were replaced by the muscular organ called the gizzard which grinds food. This trade off of the teeth and skull for a gizzard was a smart thing as it decreased body weight and moved the center of gravity under the wings creating a more aerodynamic weight distribution.

The gizzard is just one part of a bird's stomach. The other section is in front of the gizzard. It's a small, thin-walled glandular chamber that secretes digestive enzymes and acid.

Fruit- eating birds have weakly developed gizzards. Seed and insect eaters, on the other hand, have a gizzard with thick masses of muscle that can contract with tremendous force. It is lined with a tough, grooved and ridged layer of keratin which is constantly being regenerated.

Birds that have well developed gizzards include turkeys, pheasants, pigeons, doves, ducks and many finches. Sea ducks such as eiders and inland divers like scaup eat mussels and other shellfish that are easily ground up.

Turkeys can crush pecans, shell and all, in an hour. It has also been reported that a person back in the 17th century tried an experiment in which glass balls, lead cubes and chunks of wood were introduced into a turkeys stomach. The following day the glass was pulverized, the lead cubes flattened and the wood badly worn. When a modern researcher tried to duplicate these feats with a vise he needed to apply a force of 437 pounds!

In birds of prey the gizzard has a different function. Many owls and hawks swallow small rodents and birds whole. The non-digestible feathers, bones and fur remain in the gizzard and are compacted into a pellet and regurgitated. Grebes ingest feathers (did you know they feed feathers to their young?!) which settle in the bottom of the gizzard and prevent fish bones from moving into the intestine.

You may have heard that sometimes birds eat pebbles. These are kept in the gizzard to increase its pulverizing ability. Pebble munching has had some interesting results. In India, ruby mines were discovered after a ruby was found in the gizzard of a pheasant and in Oklahoma, a minor gold rush occurred when gold nuggets were found in duck gizzards. I guess you could say that the evolution of the gizzard was a gem of an idea!

It seems strange and somewhat outlandish that losing teeth and developing a powerful, muscular grinding organ would be associated with the ability to fly but as Mr. Greij exclaims, "...nothing should be a surprise  when it comes to the amazing lives of birds."

Until next time,


The Muse of Mews