Friday, February 5, 2010

Do birds taste good? - Friday's fascinations, facts, and folklore.

No, I'm not proposing that we at Birdland have had a change of heart and now want to eat all the birds here - rather I'm talking about the taste buds that birds have!

Photo by idahoptv

Cats have around 500 taste buds on their tongue, dogs 2,000, humans and pigs 15,000 and birds only a few dozen to a few hundred.

Sometimes this is helpful because birds can eat distasteful fruits and nuts that rodents are repelled by. It is thought that some plants have evolved a bad taste in order to be dispersed by birds rather than mammals. While rodents tend to chew seeds and fruit, birds often swallow them whole, maikng them much more likely to germinate later.

Photo of a woodpecker's tongue - 3 times the length of his bill.
Photo courtesy of Hilton Pond

Yet, if you watch Harold my parrot - he definitely has favorite foods - and at different times of the day. He loves fresh squash seeds and bananas at breakfast time, then cashews for cocktail hour. For cashews, he'll turn in a circle up to 5 times or climb all over his cage in anticipation and then relishes every little bit...not dropping the slightest crumb. Other food he doesn't care if he drops - having one little taste then can't be bothered!

So while they may have few taste buds, it doesn't mean they don't relish certain tastes/textures...

This photo above of me and a mockingbird was taken in the Galapagos Islands a few years ago. The mockingbird is on my shoulder not because it thinks I'm wonderful :-( but because I am holding a water bottle. While there is plenty of salt water on/around the island, there is very little fresh water. The birds seem to have learned that it is "work" for the body to desalinate the salt/sea water and therefore, they try and get fresh water from the tourists. If you accidentally drop your water bottle on the ground there, you will have a flock of birds around it in seconds, hoping to get a little drop of fresh water! This guy on my shoulder was hoping I would open my bottle and pour some out for him.

Do you notice any favorite tastes in the birds around you?


Glassprimitif said...

I am surprised that dogs have so many taste buds - the way my labrador wolfs anything down it's a wonder he can taste it at all!

Ruth said...

I know! You'd think the food didn't even touch the tongue/taste buds - nor he sides - it just like a vacuum cleaner! Who knows, maybe in years to come, dogs will have less taste buds as they don't use them! Evolution as we see it!

My Computer Tutor said...

The mockingbird was on your shoulder because you are wonderful!

But as for taste and bird brains - birds have superb colour vision and acuity at the expense of sense of smell etc...something's gotta give!

Who am I telling? You know all that!

Ruth said...

Ah. Thanks sweetie. Maybe you can be my guest blogger for a couple of Fridays and write some bird fascinations? Would love to share your birdie knowledge.... Let me know!

Zuri said...

The Galapagos Islands are the most incredible living museum of evolutionary changes, with a huge variety of exotic species (birds, land and sea animals, plants) and landscapes not seen anywhere else.