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Anyone with a bird problem knows all too well about the nuisance it leaves behind – bird poop. As a customer service rep here at Bird-X, I hear countless stories about birds being a problem and the chief complaint is that they leave their droppings everywhere. From pool decks, to cars, to commercial buildings, customers are plagued with the costly issue of having to clean up this disgusting problem. Aesthetically speaking, no one likes to see a large pile of bird poop, but the droppings can cause damage and create a health risk. A bird control program that keeps pest birds away is ideal – but if the damage is already done, here’s what you need to know about dealing with pest bird poop.
- Health and Aesthetic Damage
- Steps for Safe Removal
- Now, What to Do with the Droppings?
- Did you know?
- Why Doesn’t Bird Poop Smell?
- Do Birds Eat Poop?
- How Can Bird Poop Be Used?
- How Does Bird Poop Affect The Environment?
- What Do The Different Colors Of Poop Mean?
- Is Wild Bird Poop A Concern?
- How Long Can Poop Be Left Uncleaned Before It Becomes A Health Hazard?
- How Often Should Your Bird Poop?
- How Much Should Your Bird Poop?
- What If Your Bird Can’t Poop?
- That’s The Scoop (On Poop)
- Cleaning Bird Poop
- Potty Training Parrots
- Bird droppings defy expectations
- Can I Compost Pigeon waste?
Health and Aesthetic Damage
Bird poop contains uric acid which, if left, can easily stain fabrics and eat through paints (mainly seen on cars). The droppings also contain various organisms and insects that can be a problem for those that come in direct contact. People with preexisting lung or other health conditions should avoid dried bird droppings as much as possible. When large quantities of dried bird poop are disrupted, the particles become airborne and cause irritation in the bronchial passage. Worse, this can transmit fungal diseases such as Histoplasmosis or Cryptococcosis. These diseases are caused by fungal spores within the poop and can even contaminate soil that is overexposed. If a large quantity of bird poop is disturbed by excavation, construction, or demolition, it can become aerosolized and travel with dust particles to infect others nearby.
Steps for Safe Removal
Birds are attracted back to familiar places where they have left their scent, so removing the droppings creates a ‘clean slate’ in more ways than one. Proper cleanup of the bird poop is essential – not only to protect those in that area – but also to increase the effectiveness of any bird deterrent items in use. Also, installation of physical barriers, such as bird spikes or Bird Proof Gel, can be less effective with the presence of bird poop. The layer of droppings interferes with the barrier adhering to the surface properly.
As explained, bird droppings are hazardous. First, it is imperative to have the proper protective attire when removing the droppings, so you should evaluate the severity of the issue. For small amounts of poop, like one or two spots on your car, make sure that you thoroughly wash your hands and any other areas that come in direct contact with the droppings. It’s a good idea to wear plastic gloves. A protective mask is essential in protecting yourself and others when dealing with any significant quantity of bird poop. Plastic gloves and protective eyewear are also highly recommended. For extra precaution, cover or seal any heating/cooling vents to ensure any dried dust particles do not spread. With severe cases, it is best to call in trained, fully-equipped decontamination professionals so as to avoid all risk. In such hazardous settings, full protective clothing and a respirator mask are imperative in ensuring safety. Above all, never send children, untrained amateurs or anyone in poor health to clean up affected areas.
Use a disinfectant cleaning agent to remove residues. Most over the counter products will work for small amounts of bird poop. For more severe cases there are cleaners specifically made to kill the various bacteria and other organisms in bird droppings. Adding water to dried deposits helps to loosen them. Strongly scented disinfectants such as Pine Sol help to replace any remaining, familiar scent from the droppings with an alien sensory stimulus.
To ensure that this is not an ongoing issue, you will want to have any bird deterrent materials on hand so that when the task of cleaning is done, installation can begin right away. Accurate assessment of the area is imperative in choosing proper bird deterrents. For a free evaluation call 1-800-662-5021 or .
Now, What to Do with the Droppings?
Bird poop is actually a great additive to any fertilizer or compost. The phosphorus in the droppings and other nutrients makes it highly beneficial to your garden, especially for green vegetables. Make sure it is covered with compost to avoid risk of airborne contamination. If you don’t plan to recycle the droppings for fertilizer, the droppings must be double bagged, secured, and left in the trash disposal bin to be taken to the landfill.
Did you know?
Bird poop is actually a mixture of all the bird’s waste products, both digestive and urinary. Birds poop whenever they take flight, to avoid the energy cost of carrying any waste material with them. Parent birds will fly off the nest carrying gel-coated sacs of droppings from their offspring, to conceal their whereabouts and deposit them far from the nest. They are specially attracted to bodies of water on these missions, since water hides droppings better than land, which is why parent birds keep dropping poop in your swimming pool.
-Elizabeth Price, Bird-X Blogger
National Geographic Creative/Alamy Stock Photo
Long before the rise of modern agriculture, humans relied on three things to bring nitrogen to barren soils: lightning strikes, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and natural fertilizers. Among those, the nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich guano produced by millions of seabirds (such as nesting cormorants, above) was so prized it went by the name “white gold.” Now, a new study reveals just how rich that “gold” really is. A first-of-its-kind tally suggests that 804 million breeding seabirds and their chicks produce about 591,000 metric tons of nitrogen each year, researchers report today in Nature Communications. Together with guano from nonbreeders, seabirds produce about 3.8 million metric tons of the element annually—a shade higher than what’s transferred to land by all fishing activities, and 75% of the nitrogen fixed by either lightning or bacteria in rice paddies. A separate calculation estimates that nesting birds and chicks also excrete 99,000 metric tons of phosphorus each year. Now here’s the poop: Because about 12% of that nitrogen and 22% of that phosphorous is readily dissolvable, seabird colonies are nutrient “hot spots,” providing rich runoff to land and sea plants living downcurrent, the researchers say. That’s especially true in the waters around Antarctica and its nearby islands, because seabirds there typically are larger and have longer breeding seasons than seabirds elsewhere.
LIMA, Peru — Bird droppings are a nuisance for most people, but in Peru they have been a closely guarded treasure since pre- Columbian times.
Guano, a gentler word for dung, is one of the few words in English derived from Quechua, the language of the Incas. The Incas used guano harvested from islands that dot Peru’s 1,500-mile coastline as fertilizer. They fiercely guarded the source. And execution was the ultimate punishment for anyone who disturbed the sea birds or the islands where they deposited dung.
Execution is off the table today, but not much else has changed. The Peruvian government maintains strict control over the islands, which are part of a coastal protected reserve. Guano remains a highly prized fertilizer, and Peru is at the top of the field thanks to the gigantic quantity of oily anchovies that guano birds feast on — which makes their dung valuable — and the unusual nature of Peru’s desert coast. It never rains, so the guano just piles up.
Guano is harvested much the same way it was hundreds of years ago, with a squadron of workers manually scraping, sifting and bagging it. The government, through a division of the Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry, selects about 400 men each year to work eight months as harvesters. More than 60 percent of the workers return from one harvest to the next, and many are relatives. The work is limited to one or two islands, sometimes three, in each campaign.
The islands are chosen after an evaluation by biologists to guarantee that no birds are nesting. The harvest target this year is about 20,000 tons of guano. The yearly campaign was just past the halfway mark in June.
The work is grueling, as is evident in images by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala, a Spanish photographer who was allowed to visit Asia Island in November 2017. Teams use picks, shovels and brooms to loosen the guano, which is several yards thick in some spots. Machinery cannot be used because of the rugged and dung-slick terrain, and because it would spook the birds.
Workers earn 2,400 soles (about $750) a month, more than double the average national monthly income of about $300. They would earn much less in the farming villages where they are recruited — including Cajamarca, the country’s poorest state. They generally work eight-hour shifts and receive meals and health insurance.
The majority of the guano stays in Peru and is sold locally at a subsidized rate to help boost production for small-scale farmers. About 25 percent of it is sold at market value either in Peru or abroad.
The sacks of guano that harvesters carry on their shoulders weigh up to 50 pounds. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Workers cover their faces against swirling dust and the stench of the droppings. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Harvesting methods haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Workers stave off the monotony by rotating shifts. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
The guano, sometimes yards deep, must be separated from remnants of the rocky surface before it can be processed. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Even on an overcast day, the sun and constant wind require workers to take care in how they dress. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
As one worker pours, his peers sift through the guano to separate it before bagging. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
The effects of the work on harvesters are unmistakable. Weariness is but one element. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
With machinery banned on the islands to protect the birds, the industry operates on brawn. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Birds that live on the islands feast on oily anchovies from the nearby waters, producing large amounts of waste that can serve as fertilizer. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Peru’s cold waters are a perfect breeding ground for the anchovies in the guano birds’ diet. They’re good for a dip, too. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
The islands are empty of plant life. They are home only to birds and their many tons of dung. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
A guano worker talks by cellphone to his family at the end of the day. Alvaro Ybarra Zavala/For The Washington Post
Photo edit by Olivier Laurent. Design and development by Sam Schumacher.
The corruption scandal started in Brazil. Now it’s wreaking havoc in Peru.
The economy is hit hard by a bribery scandal involving a Brazilian construction firm.
As Peru’s glaciers melt, its problems are only beginning
Climate change is causing a flood of political and social conflicts.
Obliterating the Amazon
The rush for jungle gold in Peru’s Amazon is turning forests to desert. Can a government crackdown keep the miners out?
People say that eyes are the windows to a person’s soul; bird people say that bird poop is the window to a pet bird’s health, and it’s true. Pet bird lovers may be more familiar with poop than all other pet owners combined. We not only keep a close eye on our bird’s poop, we get pooped on — and we learn not to care! We clean poop off with an “it happens” attitude that even the most studied Zen masters could appreciate. Here are some “poop experts” chiming in on 10 fascinating facts about the ubiquitous substance in all of our lives.
Why Doesn’t Bird Poop Smell?
“Bird poop usually does not smell like mammal excrement for several reasons. First, the avian diet generally consists of less meat and more fruits and veggies,” said Karen Zielezienski, DVM, of the Plantation Animal Hospital in Plantation, Florida. “Secondly, meat protein is rich in sulfides, which is why mammal poop is usually more smelly. In addition, many mammals, like dogs and cats, have anal glands near their anus, the contents of which emit a foul odor.” Greg Burkett, DVM, board-certified avian veterinarian and owner of The Birdie Boutique in Durham, N.C., added that parrots do not have a cecum (the pouch connected to a mammal’s large intestine) and do not have fermentation in their gut, so gas and odors are not produced. Lucky for the birds!
Do Birds Eat Poop?
“This is a very rare problem,” Burkett said. “Coprophagia, or eating feces, is recognized in many other animals, including humans, and generally goes without a diagnosis. It’s thought to be because of a nutritional deficiency in some cases; however, it’s considered a behavioral problem in most cases. Rabbits produce a special dropping that is high in B vitamins, and they are known for eating this part of their fecal waste. Turkeys and chickens engage in a similar behavior. It’s common for pet birds to engage in a house-cleaning technique where they use their beak to crumble dry poop to remove it from perches or cage grates. In these cases, they are not ingesting the poop.”
How Can Bird Poop Be Used?
“There’s a lot of nitrogen in the white portion of bird droppings, and it acts as fertilizer for the ground,” said Stephen Vantassel, project coordinator for wildlife damage management for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, School of Natural Resources. “Humans have mined fertilizer on islands that were heavily populated with waterfowl and oceanic birds, where feces collected over the decades.” Closer to home, chicken farmers have found a way to “go green” using one thing they have a lot of: chicken poop. “One of the uses of chicken poop is as a fertilizer because it’s rich in nitrogen,” said Doug Inkley, certified-wildlife biologist and senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation in Reston, Va. “It’s one of the contributing factors in pollution in places where there are a lot of chicken producers, but if it’s processed and distributed in the right amount, it can be used as a fertilizer.” Even though poop is a good fertilizer for plants, Inkley warned against using your parrot’s poop in your garden. “Fertilizing with your bird’s poop can potentially introduce an exotic disease into the domestic bird population,” he said.
How Does Bird Poop Affect The Environment?
The earth knows how to deal with poop of all kinds; in the earth’s natural state, its ecosystem works flawlessly. Problems tend to arise when the ecosystem is interrupted. “In the wild, bird droppings fall onto the ground, into the trees and into the water, where the microorganisms that break it down are in abundance,” Inkley said. “In the city, when it falls onto a lifeless surface, such as cement, there are very few microbes there to break it down, which is why you sometimes see large accumulations of poop from pigeons in the city.” In order to fly efficiently and quickly, birds need to carry as little weight as possible, so they evacuate their cloaca frequently. Vantassel said that the urea in bird poop is acidic, so it can deform and deface buildings over time. “In Europe you’ll see old marble statues eaten away after years of birds roosting on them. There’s even a suspicion — I don’t know if it was ever confirmed — that the bridge in Minnesota that tragically collapsed might have been weakened by bird droppings. It takes a long time to happen, but think of it as accelerating the rusting process.” Another issue with allowing bird droppings to accumulate in massive quantities over time is histoplasmosis, a naturally occurring fungal infection that affects the lungs and other organs. People who work around pigeons doing pigeon dropping remediation (cleaning out years of accumulated pigeon poop) or pigeon keepers are much more susceptible to this infection than the average parrot or canary owner. “It’s less likely to occur in people owning captive birds, and it’s a question of quantity,” said Vantassel. “Has there been a failure to clean the droppings? Is it being stirred up? Infection is also a function of the immune system. Let’s say someone is going through chemotherapy, which makes it harder for the person to fight off infection. If you had feces with histoplasmosis in it and were stirring it up and the person breathed in a sufficient quantity, their body might not be able to fight it off. It’s theoretically possible, but it’s more likely around outside birds, not people who have pet birds, unless they have a lot of pigeons outside in a roost. It’s generally not an issue.”
What Do The Different Colors Of Poop Mean?
The color of a parrot’s poop can instantly indicate health status to an avian veterinarian or a seasoned bird keeper. “The normal color of bird feces is green — a nice, even green, maybe kelly or grass green, maybe a little darker, maybe even olive,” Burkett said. “If the green becomes very dark green to black, this is an indication that the bird is not eating and only bile is coming out in the droppings. “Urine should be clear,” Burkett continued. “Urates are normally white, but can become yellowish-green from bile staining, usually associated with disease, often liver related, but can be from other diseases, too. Urates can become red with blood in cases of lead poisoning,” An increase in the volume of the liquid portion, or urine, is called polyuria and may mean diabetes, excessive water intake or kidney disease. How the poop is formed is as important as its color, according to Burkett. “Bird poop has three components: a green portion, which is the feces and comes from the intestines; a white portion, which is the urates and comes from the kidneys; and a liquid portion, which is the urine and also comes from the kidneys,” Burkett said. “In a normal poop, the green and white portions are close to equal amounts, and there is just enough liquid to make it glisten with wetness, maybe a little halo around the poop if it’s on an absorbent surface. The poop will have a stiff, but soft consistency, enough to keep its form, make a tight swirl, and stay where it drops. The size of the droppings depends on the size of the bird. “Each of the three different parts of the droppings can change independently, in conjunction with, or as a result of changes in any part of the droppings,” Burkett said. “For example, if there is excessive urine (the liquid portion), the droppings will be wet, but the consistency of the fecal portion can remain unchanged. However, the presence of too much liquid will cause the fecal and urate portions to ‘unswirl’ and appear loose, but the consistency will not be changed. This is called polyuria, not diarrhea. “The fecal portion can change also in consistency, independent of any other changes in the droppings,” Burkett continued. “For example, if the feces has no form and the consistency is more like pudding, this is true diarrhea, and this can happen with no change in the other two portions of the droppings. Another example is if the droppings have large portions of undigested food material, such as whole seeds, which can be an indication of a digestive problem, such as avian bornavirus infection (PDD). Other illnesses can cause this, too.” Changes in color and consistency can indicate illness, but don’t panic if you see a change. Watch your bird’s droppings, and wait for a few stools to pass, said Zielezienski. If they don’t improve, take your bird to the veterinarian. “Temporary differences in a bird’s stool may indicate a change in diet or a change in the bird’s behavior, such as chewing on a new toy with dyes, for example,” Zielezienski said. “Increasing fruits, vegetables or colored pellets in a bird’s diet may cause the poop to be more watery or strangely colored.” Many conscientious pet bird owners find themselves at the avian vet’s office because of a change in their bird’s dietary habits. “My lovebird, Zoe, was a baby and eating just fine,” said Fran Amoroso, a bird owner from N.J. “The next day, her poops were all red, and I nearly had a heart attack. I put her into a carrier and rushed to my vet, positive that Zoe was going to die any moment. My vet took us in, Zoe provided a poop sample, and my vet looked at it and asked, ‘What kind of pellets do you feed her?’ I answered they were fruti-colored pellets. He assured me that Zoe was fine and would probably eat the other colors when she ran out of red, but maybe I would like a tranquilizer.”
Is Wild Bird Poop A Concern?
“Poop from wild birds can transmit psittacosis and even tuberculosis to pet birds, as well as some internal parasites if ingested, and should not be allowed to come into contact with your pet,” said Donna Garrou, owner of the BirdStuff Store in Orange, Calif. “Outdoor cages should have solid roofs to prevent poop from entering bird enclosures, and food and water dishes.” Zielezienski said that keeping birds outside exposes them to more diseases through wild bird feces. “Wild birds often carry more disease than companion birds and may shed a number of these organisms in their feces,” she said. “Pet birds’ immune systems may be less capable of fighting off these diseases. Pet birds that are housed outside are more likely to be exposed to these diseases, as many of them are airborne. This means that, even though your bird is on a screened-in porch, it may still be getting exposed to wild bird ‘stuff.’”
How Long Can Poop Be Left Uncleaned Before It Becomes A Health Hazard?
“Bird poop is not inherently dangerous, even pigeon poop,” Burkett said. “However, if poop is left for long periods of time, it will grow bacteria and fungi, which, when dried, can become aerosolized with flapping wings or cleaning, and be breathed in, resulting in respiratory disease. Also, large accumulations of poop can release ammonia in large amounts and cause respiratory disease. This can lead to lung infections, sinus infections and other respiratory problems. If a bird is carrying a disease such as , then it is passed on the droppings when the organism is being shed and causes infection in other animals and people. Generally, parrot owners are not at risk for respiratory disease if they have healthy birds and keep the cages clean.”
How Often Should Your Bird Poop?
“The number of times a bird poops in a day loosely correlates to its size,” Zielezienski said. “Smaller birds eliminate more frequently than larger birds. A budgie may excrete 40 to 50 times in a day, whereas a macaw may only go 15 or 20 times.” Burkett said that birds poop so frequently because they have a high metabolic rate and process food quickly. “In order to fly efficiently and quickly, birds need to carry as little weight as possible, so they evacuate their cloaca frequently.”
How Much Should Your Bird Poop?
The amount of poop depends on the bird’s size and should be relatively consistent. “If the volume is less than normal, it usually indicates that the bird is not eating,” Burkett said. “If the volume is larger than normal, you have to determine which part of the droppings have increased. If only the green portion is enlarged, it may be an indication of a digestive problem, oftentimes pancreatic disease preventing the normal digestion and absorption of fat in the diet. “An increase in the volume of the liquid portion, or urine, is called polyuria and may mean diabetes, excessive water intake or kidney disease,” Burkett explained. If all portions are increased, it may just be that the bird is holding the droppings for a longer time. For example, a female laying eggs will hold droppings and poop only two to three times daily.”
What If Your Bird Can’t Poop?
“Constipation is not a common problem in birds,” Burkett said. “However, if a bird is straining to poop and nothing is coming out, it could mean there is a blockage, such as an egg stuck inside a female or a foreign body in the GI tract.”
That’s The Scoop (On Poop)
This has been your “poop primer.” There’s a lot more to know about poop, but this is a good start. Now go out into the world and tell everyone what you know … or maybe just your other friends who have birds.
Cleaning Bird Poop
Fresh, wet bird poop is easy to get off of a hard surface — just use a wet paper towel, and wipe. For disinfecting, don’t use household cleaners that can harm your bird. Instead try a vinegar/water solution, grapefruit seed extract/water solution (read the bottle for the proper ratio), or a commercially available poop cleaner especially made for the avian market. Once bird poop has dried onto a hard surface, it can be difficult to remove. If it’s not very old poop, you can lightly spray it with water and scrape it with a spackle knife. Wet the remaining poop, wait 10 minutes, then wipe it off — you’ll need some elbow grease. If the bird poop is old (several weeks to several months), wet the poop liberally and allow it to moisten before you scrape it off. Try not to let very dry poop crumble and get into the air where you can breathe it. For clothing and carpet, wait until the poop is dry before you remove it. Trying to remove wet poop from fabric will only smear it in deeper. Once the poop is dry, it should be very easy to scrape off.
Potty Training Parrots
Potty training a bird is a lot like potty training a dog — it’s a matter of creating a habit. However, some people believe that potty training a bird too rigorously can be detrimental to the bird’s health. Birds are so smart and trainable that some may actually “hold it” and make themselves ill if they are removed from their designated potty area, for example, during boarding or a move. Potty training “light” might be a better option. Instead of training your bird to potty in a certain place, the way you might train a cat to use the litter box, train the bird to potty onto a specific type of wastepaper or bird litter. First, it’s critical that you can recognize your bird’s “go potty” cues. Once you know how your bird behaves just before it eliminates, place the wastepaper beneath it, and as it eliminates you say a cue, like, “Go potty” or “Bombs away!” When the waste hits the wastepaper, make a big deal about how happy you are about it and tell your bird how great and smart it is. It won’t take long before it connects the dots. Once your bird starts to understand that the cue is connected to the action (of eliminating), place the wastepaper beneath it and say the cue. If you have done this enough times, have had a lot of patience with the training, and have praised enough, your bird should potty on cue. Use this cue just before playtime so that you won’t get pooped on. If you need to board your bird, just put the wastepaper at the bottom of the cage and your pet bird will know that it’s OK to poop there.
By: Chewy Editorial
Feature Image: Murgs001/iStock/ThinkStock
Bird droppings defy expectations
Why are bird droppings so hard to remove from buildings? Uric acid.
Why are they white and pasty? Uric acid.
Why are they corrosive to car paint and metal structures? Uric acid.
These answers are based on the prevailing wisdom that ranks uric acid as the primary ingredient in bird “poop,” which is comprised mostly of urine. (Birds release both solid and liquid waste at the same time. The white substance is the urine).
But according to Nick Crouch, a scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, uric acid can’t be the answer. That’s because there is no uric acid in excreted bird urine.
And after analyzing the excretions from six different bird species — from the Great Horned Owl to the humble chicken — he’s pretty positive of that statement.
“It was easy to tell that what we had and that it was not uric acid,” Crouch said.
The results were published in the Journal of Ornithology in August 2019. The study’s co-authors are Julia Clarke, a professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences, where Crouch is currently a postdoctoral researcher, and Vincent Lynch a chemist and research scientist at the UT College of Natural Science.
Crouch studies bird evolution and biodiversity — the chemistry of bird waste is not his usual research wheelhouse. However, Crouch decided to investigate the uric acid question after a conversation in 2018 with the late Jackson School Professor Bob Folk, who claimed that bird waste didn’t contain uric acid.
“Sometimes you just get presented with a really weird question and you want to know the answer,” Crouch said. “That was this — I had no idea if was right or wrong beforehand, but I was really interested to have a look.”
Folk had looked into the question himself in the 1960s and found no sign of the substance in samples collected in 17 species.
“Bob folk was a creative and boundary pushing scientist who primarily was interested in rocks,” Clarke said. “It is a testament to his limitless creativity that he took on what he referred to as his ‘bird paper.'”
Folk published a paper in 1969 describing the X-ray diffraction workup and solubility tests that comprised his analysis. But his work was challenged by a 1971 paper that found evidence for uric acid in waste from Budgies, a type of parrot, using the same sort of X-ray diffraction analysis used by Folk.
Crouch said that he thought that running the analyses again using modern technology could help settle the question. Although X-ray diffraction hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years, the technology for analyzing its results — which consist of distinctive scattering patterns created when X-rays are deflected by different chemicals present in a substance — has become much more accurate and accessible over the decades.
As for the samples themselves, most came fresh from birds kept at the Austin Zoo, while the chicken waste sample came from a backyard flock owned by Crouch’s neighbors. All together, the samples covered a good swath of bird diversity — including species from the three major groupings of birds, a variety of diets and flightless species. But none of the samples produced an X-ray diffraction pattern consistent with uric acid. The analysis found ammonium urate, struvite and two unknown compounds.
Based on findings from other research, Crouch said that the substances are probably the result of bacteria inside the bird’s gut breaking down uric acid before it is excreted. Research conducted by other scientists having identified a diverse array of bacteria inside the digestive organs of birds that do just that.
Sushma Reddy, an associate professor and the Breckenridge Chair of Ornithology at the University of Minnesota, said she was surprised by the research findings and thinks they will spur more research into bird physiology.
“It goes against the old doctrine that we learn,” Reddy said. “It’s pretty incredible that we live in this time where we can reanalyze with incredible technologies these things that we took for granted.”
Crouch said that this research opens the door to new research questions, from the power of the bird microbiome to identifying the two unknown substances. He said that most of all, it shows the value of taking the time to question conventional wisdom.
“I had no idea I was going to work on bird pee,” Crouch said, “but I find myself with so many new questions about the avian microbiome, which shows how our research can take us in unexpected and exciting directions.”
Can I Compost Pigeon waste?
(From the Garden waste category | )
Pigeon droppings can be composted – though it is best to only compost it from healthy, captive birds (such as racing stock), as poop from wild birds may contain harmful diseases or pathogens.
Like chicken poo, pigeon droppings can be a useful fertiliser in the garden but it needs time to “cool down” first. (It’s highly alkaline to start with and can burn delicate roots and stems of plants.) It will work as a compost activator in your heap – helping things rot down in a nice, timely manner – and the resulting compost will be great for your garden.
As always, it’s best to keep your compost heap balanced, made up of a range of different things, rather than just one thing – it’ll produce better compost quicker and with less smell. Since chicken waste is nitrogen-heavy, it is best added alongside “browns“, like wood shavings/sawdust or straw — perfect if you already line the bottom of your dovecote/nesting boxes with that sort of thing. If it’s not already mixed in with bedding materials like that, add it to your compost heap in moderation (1 part poo to 4 or 5 parts other stuff) and mix it in well.
If you’ve added a lot of pigeon poop to your compost heap, be careful using the resulting compost on acid-loving plants – the compost can still be leaning towards alkalinity even after it is rotted down.