VOLANT Pa.- The 2017 Tweetspeak cluster class took a trip to the Black Swamp and the Volant Flats in Lawrence County. The weather was decent for the second day of spring, partly cloudy with the temperature around 43 degrees. I knew going into the trip that it was going to be muddy, but I quickly realized how much I underestimated exactly how muddy it was going to be. Ten minutes into our adventure, I partially fell into the edge of the swamp and was soaked from the knee down. The rest of our trip was filled with various scheduled and unscheduled stops.
During one of our unscheduled stops, we pulled over on the side the road to view six Sandhill Cranes standing in an open field. After watching the Sandhill Cranes for about fifteen minutes, I began to approach our car. I quickly noticed a small black and white object on the roof of our van. As I got closer, I realized it was bird feces. As I inspected the feces on the roof of our van, I wondered why is it white? As revolting as it sounds, it adds another reasons why birds are extremely fascinating to me.
The dirty truth about bird poop
Mammals have two separate bowels, one for secreting urine and the other for feces, but birds have a single system. The Urban Wildlife Guide provides a succinct breakdown on bird excrement. While mammals go “number one or number two” it is just one discharge for birds.
The kidney’s of the bird removes nitrogen waste from their bloodstream, emitting uric acid. This is where the white comes from. The uric acid is white and is separated from the brown/black because it does not have to blend. The acid bleaches the fecal matter while also combining to create a paste-like substance.
Depending on the amount of feces and uric acid will determine if the fecal matter is more liquefied or solid. The single system also means the uric acid and feces are expelled from the same opening under the tail, the cloaca or vent.
The simplified process for ridding the waste materials appears to be one of the adaptions that supports the function of flight.
The single-bowel system fits well with the other adaptive features. For instance, birds have pneumatic bones (hollow bones) as well as lay eggs just to save weight for flight. Another way birds save weight for flight is their reproductive system. Female and male birds have a cloaca for reproduction. This is also incorporated in urinary and waste system. Having all three systems combined saves weight for the birds, ultimately helping it fly.
Do birds target cars with their poop? And do they seek out red cars over every other color?
One study in the United Kingdom suggests red cars are found to be the most targeted in bird droppings. The Daily Mail reported the British Trust for Ornithology was quick to criticize the research. Trust experts pointed out the study failed to provide genuine data that can show a correlation of bird poop to car color. They suggested it’s more likely to do with where you park your car.
Many believe it’s lucky to be pooped on by a bird. However it can an unpleasant surprise to some. For experienced birders, it’s just part of a day out in the field. And it’s organic.