If you have ever watched a parrot eat, you may have noticed that they munch down on some lovely crunch things.
Some of the seeds and grains that they eat could easily chip a human’s tooth.
If we ate something like that, it would have to be well-ground.
If not by machines, then at least our molars.
We depend on our teeth to help us digest food; parrots must have something that helps them do the same.
That leads me to wonder, do parrots even have teeth?
No, parrots do not have teeth inside their beaks. Instead, they use their beaks to break food into small enough pieces to swallow. Then, a unique acid in their stomach breaks down the food further before moving to their gizzard, which crushes the food down even further.
It is strange to think about a digestive system that is so far away from ours, but parrots share their digestive system with all birds.
This piece will dive into theories about why parrots don’t have teeth, how parrots eat without teeth, and how a parrot’s digestive system operates.
Then, we will discuss a few other animals who have evolved not to have teeth and some birds that trick us into thinking that they do have teeth.
Why don’t parrots have teeth?
Several theories exist to explain why birds evolved not to have teeth.
Perhaps the most probable idea has to do with their flying mechanisms.
In terms of anatomy, teeth are pretty heavy.
When you are trying to float in the air, heavy things don’t help that objective.
If parrots did have teeth, their center of gravity would be in their head, making it very difficult, maybe even impossible, for them to lift off the ground.
Therefore, some biologists think birds evolved to lose their teeth and form beaks of lighter biological materials.
This way, parrots’ center of gravity is closer to where their wings cross, making it much easier for them to glide in the wind.
How do parrots eat without teeth?
All of the food that parrots like to eat does not come perfectly chopped and prepared parrot size.
Luckily, parrots have sharp beaks, which allow them to break food into smaller pieces.
They rip, break, and cut their food before trying to put it down their throats.
While they make motions that resemble chewing, after parrots put food into their throats, they do not break it into tinier bits.
Not only do beaks help parrots chop up their food, but they also help them crack into the shells of hard nuts and fruits that we would need a unique tool to open.
The curvature of their beaks lets them apply massive amounts of force to crack apart even the toughest nuts.
They can apply about six hundred pounds of force over one square inch. That is one powerful bite!
Do parrots have different kinds of beaks?
Parrots are distinguished from other birds by the unique hook shape of their beaks.
While some variations in the size, shape, and color of beaks, most parrots’ beaks follow a similar form.
Unlike most birds, parrots can independently move their upper beak in relation to their lower beak.
This ability gives them finer dexterity in manipulating the various nuts and seeds they enjoy.
In addition to using their beaks to crunch through their meals, parrots also use their beaks to move things around and climb up trees.
Perhaps their different skills help them not feel like they are missing out on teeth.
How does a parrot’s digestive system operate?
Similar to humans, parrots have many steps to their digestive system, about twelve different levels.
It all starts with the parrot picking up food between their beaks, and this is more or less the last step we get to see as pet owners.
Well, until the all too familiar final step.
After the food gets into their beaks, it moves through the parrots’ mouths and throats until arriving at their food storage center, the crop.
The crop is situated in a perfect place to help them balance while flying.
The parrot’s past meals move to the first stomach before arriving in their gizzard from the crop.
The gizzard has powerful muscles to crush the food even further.
Finally, the system finishes with intestines that absorb all the nutrients from the healthy foods the parrot enjoys.
The final stage of the digestive system is the one we are accustomed to as pet owners, excretion.
Are there other animals that don’t have teeth?
Yes, some other animals besides birds have evolved not to have teeth.
Three different types of mammals, two on land and one in water, do not have teeth.
On land, anteaters and pangolins adapted to survive without teeth.
In the water, there are about ten different kinds of whales that get by without any teeth.
Do any birds have teeth?
Although it may look like it at first glance, there are no birds that have teeth.
Some birds have ridges in their beaks that mimic the look of teeth, but they are just a series of indentations.
There are a few species of geese that have especially convincing serrations.
Greylag and domestic geese both have serrations that make you believe that their bite could be worse than their bark.
Still, they are not natural teeth.
Toothless yet adorable.
Maybe there is something about parrots’ toothless nature that makes them such endearing pets.
For some, their lack of teeth makes it more fascinating to watch them eat, maneuver things, and climb around.
What most of us love about parrots is how different they are from us.
I know I get a kick out of watching my parrot crack open tough nuts and throw around his toys.
If he had teeth, it would probably make him preening my hair feel pretty funky.
I think I prefer my parrot without teeth.