– How do birds seemingly know which small bits on the ground are edible and which are not?

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You see pigeons and other birds go mad when a bunch of breadcrumbs are thrown on the ground, but seem to know not to go for small rocks, earth, and other non edible things even if they were to be thrown in the same way.

Maybe I’m just underestimating the intelligence of pigeons or their keen eyesight? But they seem to know almost instantly what they can and can’t eat.

In: Biology

13 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Birds have excellent eyesight, and their world looks different to them than it does to us. They can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, and brown seeds on brown dirt may appear different to them.

It is also a function of memory. No, pigeons are not very “smart” by our standards, but they are capable of learning. When they were young, they watched the items that adult pigeons selected, and learned which items were desirable food. Those pigeons learned from adults when *they* were young, and so on.

Also, birds intentionally swallow bits of grit, storing them in a specialized organ called a gizzard. The gizzard is what grinds the pigeon’s food before it enters their stomach, using the abrasive power of the pebbles or sand inside.

Anonymous 0 Comments

If you study the pidgins for a bit you will notice that they sometimes pick up things in their beak that they spit out again. Especially if things are frantic as people throw food at the ground. So they are not perfect. But they are closer to the ground then you and have better eyesight then you. So they have a much easier time seeing what is on the ground and can usually see if it have the texture of bread or seed or if it have the texture of a pebble.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A bird is an animal that has various senses, such as eyesight, just like humans do. A human could likely pick out food from rocks on the ground too.

Im not trying to be smart. Just trying to make it simple. The birds see things that are not rocks. Things they’ve eaten before.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Evolutionary instinct? Same reasons you like salty, fatty, and sweet things? 

Anonymous 0 Comments

Crows are extremely intelligent. A crow sitting in a tree 30 metres away from you can see you drop your sandwich and uses calculus to determine if the energy required to go get the sandwich is worth the time and risk

Anonymous 0 Comments

How do you know in the morning to eat the toast and not the plate? A combination of using your senses and your experience.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I would say experience. I mean you can eat a kiwifruit but not a tennis ball. They are both roundish and hairy but you still know which one you can eat and which one you can’t.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The short answer is that they have excellent vision. City birds like pigeons can see worms in the dirt from the air. Imagine looking at a piece of bread and a small rock under a magnifying glass. It would be extremely easy to tell them apart.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’ve watched pigeons in my city alternate trying to eat a cigarette butt or a rock. One would peck at it, drop it after realizing it wasn’t food. 2 others ran over, and fought over it. The winner pecked at it, then dropped it. The loser pecked at it, then dropped it. Then the original pigeon pecked at it again, and yet again dropped it because it somehow still wasn’t food.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Howe do you know a pizza is edible but a dinner plate is not?

It is from a combination of good eyesight and past experience.

Birds build up an understanding of the kinds of things you find on the ground and usually know at a glance whether it is something they have eaten in the past or not. . Occasionally you see a bird pick up something unfamiliar, discover it is not edible and drop it. Now it knows and wont make that mistake again.