Do birds fart?

on 30th June 2009

Forest Ang photographed a Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) at a park in Penang, Malaysia one day in June 2009. On examining his images in the comfort of his home, he was intrigued by one of the images. The feathers around the posterior opening of the myna, the vent, showed signs that air was being passed out. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the term vent, this is the common opening through which faeces from the digestive system, uric acid from the excretory system and sperm or egg from the reproductive system pass.

So Forest asked a pertinent question: “Can birds fart?” He was unable to confirm that the bird made any farting sound when he was photographing it. After all, the place was noisy with many people around.

The web is full of answers to the question, with conflicting views.

Backyard Birding has this to say: “…any animal which eats generates gas and this gas must go somewhere. So while birds possess a relatively short intestinal tract, thus producing a smaller amount of gas, they do produce some. And it is expelled through the normal means.”

Laura’s Birding Blog says no. There is no “noticeable eruptions of significant volumes of intestinal gas. Avian intestines are short and evacuate wastes frequently. Any gases produced in digestion leak out as fast as they’re produced, so there isn’t the opportunity for build-up that leads to those explosive releases we cheerfully or disgustedly call farts.”

However, Mike Murray, a veterinarian at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, has this to say: “It’s not that they can’t. They just don’t need to. Birds have the anatomical and physical ability to pass gas, but if I saw gas in a bird’s gastrointestinal tract on an x-ray, I’d suspect that something abnormal was going on in there.”

We believe that birds do fart, maybe under certain circumstances. After all, photographic evidence proves that the Common Myna in the picture actually passed wind.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

15 Responses

  1. Googled ‘birds farting’ and got 7,180,000. Not all great science, I’d guess. Domestic hen owners and pigeon fanciers should know. Standard test would put a bird in sealed quarters and analyse all outputs.

  2. I would agree with Mike Murray that its not that birds can’t, it’s just that they don’t need to. For the last 50 years, I have usually had a lory or a lorikeet of sorts on my shoulder every morning and evening. As you all know, these are frugivorous parrots. Unlike cockatoos, which tend to remain gentle once tamed, lories and lorikeets are, in the words of my vet, who used to work in the Jurong Bird Park, “all a little crazy”. To minimise antisocial behaviour, it is recommended that humans interact with them every single day. Which is why I encourage them to come to me twice a day, in the mornings, when I feed them, and the evenings, when I clean the aviaries.

    If any bird is likely to fart, it is likely to be a lory. I have heard all kinds of things from lories (Eos borneo, Trichoglossus haematodus, Lorius garrulus flaviopalliatus, Lorius chlorocercus, Lorius lory, Charmosyna placenta, Charmosyna papua,)on my shoulder in the past half century, but I have never heard one fart.

    Lee Chiu San

  3. Lucky you Chiu San, your birds did not fart when on your shoulder. Hopefully they did not splash your shirt with their wastes?

  4. Hahaha! That was a very innovative post. I just retweeted on Twitter. And Dugg and Stumbled. This is the kind of article that makes non-birders to birders.
    Saludos from Peru

  5. Dear YC,

    You are well aware that frugivorous and nectivorous birds have short guts and almost straight-through digestive systems.

    Some of them (lories, lorikeets, Indian hill mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, etc) also do something a lot worse than fart. They squirt – horizontally – and frequently!

    Do not think that you are safe if you stand behind any of the above species even if you are at the same level and some distance away.

  6. Message taken, Chiu San. If I ever see you walking with a bird on your shoulder, it would not be safe to be nearby, either behind or by your side. Maybe in front would be safe, if the bird is not perching on your shoulder facing backwards.

  7. I have two parakeets and they love their broccoli. But afterwards… the farts happen and they are pretty darn nasty. The smell is horrible ! So bad i keep air freshener close by. lol

  8. A little birdy might not need to fart, neither nor is able, but I did once watch a parakeet do an almight shite right under my living room table. There must be some sound associated with the passing of faeces in some form in most living things. On the other hand if someone was to say a worm pumped I’d be gazzumped.

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