are all birds immune to capsaicin

An Evolutionary Advantage for Hot Pepper Plants

Mice and squirrels, for example, typically go crazy over mild and sweet pepper plants. However, since these rodents have human-shared spicy food receptors, they typically stay away from hot peppers when it comes to food. Thats just fine with the pepper plants.

Evolution has made jalapeños, habaneros, and the aptly named birds eye chili plants picky about the animals that consume their fruit. These plants need birds to consume their fruit because they can fly great distances and effectively disperse their seeds.

There is no better seed distributor for pepper plants than a bird. Not only do birds not digest the seeds, but they are also immune to the burn of hot peppers. That means they pass through the bird intact. Even the seeds are separated from the fruit pulp by the bird’s stomach, increasing the likelihood that they will sprout in the ground.

The plants’ progeny are sown widely because many birds travel great distances before passing the seeds they deposit with their droppings. On the other hand, mammals are not very good at dispersing seeds; they typically don’t go very far before passing the

New Meaning for “Eating like a bird”

Imagine biting into a Carolina reaper, the worlds hottest pepper. With 200 times the heat of a jalapeño, this dried-out little red fruit ought to come with a sick note and a gallon of milk. Eating it could cause symptoms for humans such as:

  • Intense mouth “burning” or discomfort
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea

For birds, its just another snack. Though it remains unknown, some have hypothesized that eating hot peppers may also make birds’ stomachs hurt.

A Healthy Food for Birds

Hot peppers are more than just a meal for birds. Vitamin A, which is found in chillies, is known to enhance the quality, color, and shine of feathers. Additionally, it’s generally accepted that hot peppers provide health benefits to people, such as immunity support, antioxidants, and possibly even pain relief. The same may be true for birds.


Why are birds not affected by capsaicin?

Capsaicin is most concentrated in the tissues surrounding the seeds (on the inside of each pepper). It triggers taste receptors found in birds and mammals. But it also stimulates a certain kind of pain receptor found in mammals but not in birds, and that’s why birds have no adverse reaction to eating peppers.

Can all birds eat hot peppers?

Many birds enjoy spicy peppers too—but only because they can’t actually feel the heat. We know that birds have different taste receptors from humans. In fact, all animals taste flavors differently (cats lack the ability to taste sweetness).

Does capsaicin deter birds?

Because capsaicin repels mammals but not birds, it can be used to deter squirrels from eating birdseed.

Are birds immune to pepper spray?

Hot pepper sprays are widely recommended to as a bird repellent, despite the fact that 30 years of research has shown that birds lack sensory receptors for capsaicin, the active principal in hot peppers. Mammals such as squirrels, rabbits or dogs can be deterred with hot pepper brews, but not birds.