Science Questions

Why is bird poo white?

Sat, 29th May 2010

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Do Bacteria Grow on Bars of Soap?

Question

Adrian asked:

Hi Naked Scientists,†

 

I was seating†with a cup of coffee on a chair in my back yard in the morning, watching a seagull flying above me, wondering if I'd have the time to avoid it's poo, if the seagull felt such a need right above me. †And then I remembered my car, and the fact that the birds' excrements were white. What kind of things happen in their body to make their excrements white, whilst they are eating about the same things as other animals eat?

 

Many thanks,

 

Adrian

Answer

Helen -  Excellent question and itís not actually anything to do with what they eat which is one thing you could think of - well maybe they eat something thatís white? but no.  They eat just the same stuff as all sorts of other creatures, but itís about how they process that food and itís all about proteins and nucleic acids, and how they break that down. 

We break down proteins and we all produce ammonia, but we make it into urea which we then dissolve in water and get rid of it in urine.  But we need lots of water to do that, so that means we have to drink a lot which means we don't really survive very well when thereís not much water around.

Birds and reptiles have a better way of dealing perhaps with low water, and the need to get rid of all that nasty toxic ammonia, and they create something called uric acid which is a solid or a mostly solid paste.  That is white, and thatís why their poo is white.  In fact, itís very valuable stuff.  Guano has been mined in lots of parts of the world to be used as fertiliser and wars have been fought over it because it can be used to make gunpowder  - itís got very high nitrogen and phosphorus in it.  So, there you go Ė white bird poo has lots of rather extraordinary applications.

Multimedia

Subscribe Free

Related Content

Comments

Make a comment

Adrian asked the Naked Scientists: Hi Naked Scientists,† I was seating†with a cup of coffee on a chair in my back yard in the morning, watching a seagull flying above me, wondering if I'd have the time to avoid it's poo, if the seagull felt such a need right above me. And then I remembered my car, and the fact that the birds' excrements were white. What kind of things happen in their body to make their excrements white, whilst they are eating about the same things as other animals eat? Many thanks, Adrian What do you think? Adrian , Tue, 11th May 2010

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=15928.msg185374#msg185374 RD, Tue, 11th May 2010

See the whole discussion | Make a comment


-
Not working please enable javascript
EPSRC
Powered by UKfast
STFC
Genetics Society
ipDTL