We focus on bird and parrot nutrition a lot here because of the complexity of a bird’s anatomy.
Birds require far more energy than their ground-based counterparts.
Migratory birds fly at high altitudes where the air is thin.
You and I would require supplemental oxygen at those altitudes.
Editors note: Ruppell’s vultures have been reportedly seen at 35,000 feet (7 miles above the earth) by commercial airline pilots.
This ability comes from their DNA enabling them to extract oxygen from red blood cells more efficiently than any other animal on the planet
Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) in the Serengeti, Tanzania.
Birds have two matching lungs just like mammals but they’re totally different organs.
Our lungs contain tubes that flow into little sacs.
Cul-de-sacs actually because air can only go in and out of them, never flow through them, to the outside.
They take up a good portion of our chest.
Air comes in from the mouth down to our trachea and then through a complex series of tubes – bronchi, actually – eventually into tiny air capillaries which then exchange gas between the ventilation system in the blood where it moves the oxygen to the bodies cells.
When you think of birds lungs think how water moves in and out of a sponge.
Air comes directly into the birds lungs and then into adjacent air sacs.
The sacs are believed to function kind of like bellows and push the air through the birds lungs.
Human lungs exchange air with every breath, birds lungs hold a constant volume of air.
They inflate but they don’t deflate – they hold air.
Think about submarines – they rise and fall by pumping air into cavities when they want to go up, the air is replaced with water when they go down.
If birds lungs filled and emptied with every breath their altitude would constantly change.
The advantages of this “constantly inflated” design are clear.
Birds are able to stay on course easily and it allows them to have a much higher energy level than mammals.
Mammals lose energy just by breathing because of the actions of their lungs
How rapidly birds breathe is inversely proportionate to how much they weigh.
Parrots will take approximately 14 breaths per minute when at rest.
Bird breasts are different than ours.
When a parrot takes a breath, it’s chest muscles forces it’s breastbone out then air is sucked in through it’s nostrils.
A safety note here: holding birds too tightly around their chest could suffocate them
The smaller the bird the larger it’s heart relative to its size.
The human heart is typically about one half of 1% of body weight and the average heart rate at rest is 72 bpm.
Your bird or parrot’s heart can be anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2% of its body weight and have a standing heart rate of anywhere from 140-400 bpm.
Also published on Medium.