Why do birds eat gravel?

Birds and humans are not the same, our bodies are different, because of this we have to eat differently. Birds thrive on a diet of insects, worms, grubs, grasses, seeds, rodents, snakes pollen and nuts. Humans can’t survive very long on such a diet, we’d rather have grains, fruits, vegetables and other protein sources. Another odd thing that birds eat is gravel, but why do they need this in their diet? This article looks into the question of “why birds eat gravel”

Birds eat gravel because it helps them grind up pieces of food. They don’t have teeth and their digestive enzymes aren’t able to digest their food without help, gravel digests food in the stomach helping the bird absorb food better. Not all birds eat gravel, only birds that can’t break up food into small enough pieces need gravel.


Why do birds eat gravel?

Birds eat many hard foods like seeds and hard-bodied bugs, yet they don’t have any teeth to actually smash and grind these hard substances into manageable bits. In addition, birds have small digestive systems, because of this they need to get to the nutrients in these hard foods in a relatively quick time after swallowing them. The solution is gravel.

Birds eat gravel both as a micro source of nutrient and as an aide to their digestion of hard food substances. By intaking gravel, birds are able to crush and smash the hard outer layer of seeds, nuts and bugs. Certain gravel also has trace elements of calcium which is a nutrient that birds need for bone, eggshell, and beak health.

What happens if birds don’t eat gravel?

For some birds, gravel is needed to crush the hard foods that they eat. If these birds do not have gravel in their digestive tracts then hard foods could cause internal scarring, blockages and ultimately not get digested. If the food doesn’t get digested properly then the bird will miss out on the nutrients of what they ate leading to malnourished birds. Blocked passages can result in constipation, crop impaction, asphyxiation and even the death of the bird.

What gravel replacement can you give birds?

There are alternatives to providing gravel or grit to birds. First, some birds have delicate bodies, so lining their cages with grit and gravel can cause physical damage to their feet. Not all birds require gravel. Secondly, gravel is not the only substance birds eat to aid in their digestion, they may also eat sand, activated coal and shells to gain both the calcium and digestive aid that they need, give them this as a replacement.

Do all birds need gravel to digest food?

There are benefits to birds eating gravel but not all birds require gravel as a part of their diet or as a digestive aide. Some birds like pigeons and chickens definitley need gravel.

Yet other birds like parakeets do not necessarily need to eat gravel. Parakeets for example have string beaks that crush and smash their food. Thus, they will only eat the soft inner part of the nuts and seeds, they don’t need gravel in their system to do the job. In fact, adding gravel to a birds’ digestive system, when it is not necessary, can turn out to be very harmful and pressuring since their system is not built to accommodate gravel and gravel cannot be digested.

How do birds that don’t eat gravel digest food?  

Birds that don’t eat gravel have pre-eating techniques to break apart and simplify the food they are eating. Birds may have strong beaks or talons that rip, shred and tear at hard foods. They may also slam, drop and smash their hard food against even harder surfaces to break it into smaller more manageable bits. Some non-gravel eating birds, like the Hoatzin, have a digestive system that ferments gut bacteria to breakdown hard-shelled foods.


In conclusion, birds eat gravel because it helps them digest food, they don’t have teeth and thus need gravel to break up food in their digestive systems. If they don’t eat gravel then the food in their stomachs won’t be digested. That being said, not all birds need to eat gravel as they can break up food well enough before they eat it 

If you enjoyed this article then you may also be interested in other bird related articles. Here are some articles that you may be interested in:  Why do birds land on your head?, Why do birds roost?, Why do birds eat so much?, Why do birds ruffle their feathers?,

Why do birds eat gravel?
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