The image of a Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus) eating a piece of capsicum or chilli (Capsicum annuum) was taken in Belum, Malaysia. Howard Banwell kindly made it available to BESG..
Why birds and chillies? Well, on 9th February 2009, Sun Chong Hong wrote in response to a post on a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) swallowing figs whole.
“This brings back memory of my childhood. About forty, fifty years ago I noticed the ripened chili padi potted in our garden always went missing, while the pedicel and calyx remain attached to the plant. I always wondered who was the culprit that stole the fruit, until one day I saw a Yellow-vented Bulbul swallowing the ripened fruit whole, with its beak pointing upwards to the sky.”
Bulbuls are well known for taking these fiery hot chillies, especially the small chill padi.
Birds do have taste buds, but these are usually few in number. And these buds are not found on the tongue or at the tongue’s tip. They are usually on the roof of the mouth or deep in the oral cavity.
But then birds do not chew their food. They may manipulate it in their bill or tear off pieces, but then they swallow the pieces whole, without giving them time to taste it.
Image by Howard Banwell.