Do Pigeons Have Teeth?

How Do Pigeons Eat If They Have No Teeth?

You would be surprised how often people ask “do pigeons have teeth?”  Maybe it’s because they are seen cracking seeds, peanuts, etc, in areas that we and our children often use, such as parks and town centers.  But you will be relieved to know that pigeons do not have teeth.

Like all birds, pigeons use their beaks to pick up food and break it. Their beaks are incredibly strong and can crush seeds and get right into small crevices to find bugs and other delectable delights on the pigeon menu.

Pigeons also have something called a “crop”.  This is a pouch located near the throat in which they store the food they have just eaten before it gets digested.  Pigeons can also produce crop milk! Amazing huh!? They feed their chicks with this.

How Do Pigeons Drink?

The pigeon drinks differently to most birds as they can “suck” water into their beak – a bit like we can from a cup. Most birds scoop water into their beaks and then tip their head back to swallow.

What Are Pigeons Beaks Made Of?

Beaks are made of keratin – the same component that makes up our hair and fingernails.  Beaks are thicker than our fingernails and therefore a lot stronger.  They have “nares”, or what we call nostrils on them, and they can smell with them.

Some beaks, however, have serrated edges like those of some species of geese.  These serrations are so it can clip off grass and other vegetation that make up a large part of their diet.

How do pigeons chew their food?

Now that we know pigeons don’t have teeth, this question comes to mind. Birds can’t chew their food in their mouth. So most birds use their beaks to peck large chunks of food into smaller pieces. Then, they swallow these pieces. 

The “chewing” so to say, is done by the stomach. Pigeons, like all other birds,  have a stomach-like, muscular pouch called a gizzard. The gizzard is responsible for breaking down the food in the pigeon’s stomach. 

Interestingly, some birds even swallow small stones or bits of gravel to help grind the food. These ‘gizzard stones’ act like teeth. They help to break down food so that nutrients can be absorbed by the bird. 

Related Read: Things To Know Before Buying Pigeons As Pets

Did Pigeons Ever Have Teeth?

Pigeons have never had teeth as they are modern-day birds.  However, there were birds with teeth back in prehistoric times, over 100 million years ago.  The fearsome pterodactyl is the one that most people have heard of.  No modern-day birds have teeth.

When Did Birds Stop Having Teeth?

As a result of extensive studies, it is estimated that birds started to lose their teeth and grow beaks no more than 100 million years ago.  However, studies on fossils show that enamel loss started approximately 116 million years ago. 

Apparently, all birds used to have teeth but quite simultaneously, they all started to lose them due to an evolutionary process that enables them to switch off the gene that allowed them to grow.

It is still an evolutionary mystery as to why birds started to lose their teeth and grew beaks instead.

What would happen if pigeons had teeth?

Teeth are an important feature in all mammals and terrestrial animals. But it’s actually necessary that birds shouldn’t have teeth. 

If pigeons had teeth, their jaws would be so heavy that they wouldn’t be able to fly.

Do pigeons have tongues?

The answer is yes, pigeons, like all birds, have a tongue. A tongue helps the pigeon to swallow food and water. Unlike other birds, pigeons can suck water, this is also done with the help of their tongue.

Other birds use their tongue to manipulate food and turn it around in their beaks. Bigger birds like vultures use their tongue to push food into their crop as fast as possible so they can eat and digest it later. 

What Is The “Egg Tooth”?

Almost all species of birds have something called an “egg tooth” when they are born.  Strictly speaking, it isn’t a tooth at all, more like a little sharp bump made from calcium on their beak.

This is so that they can escape from the membrane and shell of the egg.  They use it to make tiny holes in the shell when they are ready to hatch, thereby making the egg crack open as they turn around inside, pushing against it.  This bump disappears soon after birth.

So there you have it – pigeons do not have teeth so don’t worry if a super-tame one tries to eat from your hand – it won’t bite!

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