(noun) A muscular pouch that is an extension of a bird’s esophagus. This is part of the digestive tract and is used to store excess food prior to digestion. When a bird has a full crop after a large meal, the throat can look grossly distended as if the bird is choking, but there is no distress. Birds with a full crop will often be reluctant to move and will retreat to a safe perch to digest.
Birds use their crops for gorging, which allows them eat more food than necessary at one time but to reserve the excess food for a later time, which can also make it safer to feed because the bird can retreat from an exposed feeding position more quickly but still get a good supply of food. Parent birds will store food in their crop before regurgitating it to feed nestlings, and some birds – such as pigeons and flamingos – produce crop milk as a nutritious supplement for very young chicks.
Not all birds have a prominent crop. Birds that do use the crop regularly include vultures, hawks, falcons, eagles, gulls and many types of quail.
Crops are not unique to birds alone and are also found in many species of insects, snails and leeches.
Photo – Dove Feeding Chicks © Alex Proimos