Birds’ guts have important differences from mammals’ guts. Most obviously, birds have a beak instead of teeth. Beaks are much lighter than teeth and are an adaptation for flight. Imagine a bird trying to take off and fly with a whole set of teeth in its head! At the base of the oesophagus birds have a bag-like structure called a crop. In many birds the crop stores food before it enters the stomach, while in pigeons and doves glands in the crop secretes a special fluid called crop-milk which parent birds regurgitate to feed their young. The stomach is also modified and consists of two compartments. The first is the true stomach with muscular walls and enzyme secreting glands. The second compartment is the gizzard. In seed eating birds this has very muscular walls and contains pebbles swallowed by the bird to help grind the food. This is the reason why you must always supply a caged bird with grit. In birds of prey like the falcon the walls of the gizzard are much thinner and expand to accommodate large meals (see diagram 11.13).
Diagram 11.13 - The stomach and small intestine of a hen