The Bird Poop That Changed The World

  • Published on Dec 14, 2018
  • Thanks to my grandmother for inspiring this story, and to my mother for helping make it. If you like our videos, please consider supporting MinuteEarth on Patreon! - Alex
    Bird poop was the gateway fertilizer that turned humanity onto the imported-chemical-based farming system of modern agriculture.
    Thanks to our Patreon patrons and our USclip members.
    To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
    Guano: seabird (or bat) poop. From the indigenous Peruvian word “wanu”, meaning “manure that’s good for fertilizer"
    Manure: animal poop used as fertilizer (typically cow or pig poop)
    Fertilizer: a chemical-containing substance added to soil to provide nutrients to plants
    Nitrate mining: digging up the naturally occurring solid form of the element nitrogen (sodium nitrate)
    Phosphate mining: digging up the naturally occurring solid form of the element phosphorus
    Haber-Bosch process: the major industrial method to take nitrogen gas out of the air and convert it to ammonia
    If you liked this week’s video, you might also like:
    Our fertilizer is killing us. Here's a fix:
    Why bird poop is white:
    In 1856 US Congress enabled US citizens to take over unclaimed islands with guano on them:
    Guano is in demand again today:
    Subscribe to MinuteEarth on USclip:
    Support us on Patreon:
    And visit our website:
    Say hello on Facebook:
    And Twitter:
    And download our videos on itunes:
    Credits (and Twitter handles):
    Script Writer, Video Director, and Narrator: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
    Video Illustrator: Jesse Agar (@JesseAgarYT)
    With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg
    Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:
    Image Credits: Farquhar, W.H. 1884. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Vol. I, Pg. xxix-xxx. Baltimore: Cushings & Bailey.
    Canby, T.Y. 2002. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Vol. VI. Introduction: Pg. 26-27. Sandy Spring Museum.
    Cushman, G.T. 2013. Guano and the opening of the Pacific World: A global ecological history. Cambridge University Press.
    Cushman, G.T., personal communication, October 2018.
    Farquhar, W.H. 1884. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Vol. I, Pg. xxix-xxx. Baltimore: Cushings & Bailey.
    Lorimor, J., Powers, W., Sutton, A. 2004. Manure Characteristics. MWPS-18, Section 1. Second Edition. Table 6. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
    Robinson, M.B. April 26, 2007. In Once-Rural Montgomery, a Rich History. The Washington Post.
    S. Sands & Son. 1875. The American Farmer: Devoted to Agriculture, Horticulture and Rural Life. Vol. 4, Issue 12, pg. 417-418. Baltimore.
    Stabler, H.O. 1950. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Vol. V, Pg. 43. American Publishing Company.
    Szpak, P., et al. 2012. Stable isotope biogeochemistry of seabird guano fertilization: results from growth chamber studies with Maize (Zea mays). PloS one, 7(3), e33741.
    Thanks also to the Sandy Spring Museum:
  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 537

  • Lawrence Cole
    Lawrence Cole 3 hours ago

    80% by numerocity or by weight? which trashtube can tell me I've spelled wrong yet cannot offer the correct spelling for, and have you ever noticed how many dbbl letters are in "cannot offer the correct spelling for". Whats another word for "for" with dbbl letters in it?

  • Just me
    Just me 4 days ago +1

    People on USclip: first... first
    Europeans: *Hold my bird poop*

  • Alicia Sercombe
    Alicia Sercombe 5 days ago

    I was wondering why bird poop has 2 colours!

  • Fortzub
    Fortzub 8 days ago

    Why is my ‘radical leftist’ radar going off?

  • avril_ awesome!
    avril_ awesome! 15 days ago

    Miniute earth more like 3:08 earth

  • Wolf Lover
    Wolf Lover 24 days ago

    So before

    We are eating bird poop

  • fun time Diaz
    fun time Diaz Month ago

    im lucky that i dont eat crops and veggies now and by just hearing this makes me want to barf

  • Fearfulfox
    Fearfulfox Month ago

    Does this mean that we could theoretically we could replenish some nitrogen and phosphorus if we ourselves peed on farmland (provided we don't have to much salt in our pee)?

  • rat
    rat Month ago

    2:39 78.09%*

  • Andrew J. Williams
    Andrew J. Williams Month ago

    I Need to Erase By Searches!!

  • derick alli
    derick alli Month ago

    He sttuterd like this
    When the (etc.)

  • Michael Xie
    Michael Xie Month ago

    You know how did your ancestors dig up the bird poop? By slaves, they got those cheap labors from Asia and Africa. then give them very little food and water, no wages. Many people died while digging bird poop.

  • Anh Ngoc
    Anh Ngoc Month ago +1

    Guano ls quite smelly (I think)

  • Halil Şen
    Halil Şen Month ago +1

    "disadvantages" of fertilizer and industrial farming is completely missing from the video. I would expect you guys at least mention the clean underground water shortage and climate change...

  • TNTBlower Littel
    TNTBlower Littel Month ago

    Some diorete

  • Radu C
    Radu C Month ago

    Nitrogen and Phosphorus (electrolytes?). It’s what the plants crave.

  • PaTA Oficial
    PaTA Oficial Month ago

    Holy crap

  • Yanuchi Uchiha: Anime, Games and Ramdomness

    not all plants, clover plant do not need that in the soil, in fact they are the only plant that creates it's own via bacteria that live in the root of the plant.

  • islam aydoğmuş
    islam aydoğmuş 2 months ago


  • Sparky Doodle
    Sparky Doodle 2 months ago

    Imagine getting into a war for poop

  • Cleeon Virlief
    Cleeon Virlief 2 months ago

    Ok, this video give the next idea to optimize the profit from the land

  • ItsYaBoy Momo
    ItsYaBoy Momo 2 months ago

    First of all the nitrogen has no need to have been taken out air if the air can just come to it

  • My More Noble Pursuits
    My More Noble Pursuits 2 months ago

    Lmao sure "stopped using guano, not because they ran out (but they did) but because an alternative resource was established" I think Coal just needs to run out for things to change.

  • Gacha Ria
    Gacha Ria 2 months ago

    Guano is bat poop.....

  • Christian Krogh Banke 5G Tre Ege Skolen

    dont steal bird poop plz

  • Cake Milkshake
    Cake Milkshake 2 months ago

    Birds don't pee?
    Might as well tell that to all the artists that made art for the Animal Jam Raid
    Because penguins are birds
    Birds can't piss
    Penguins can't piss
    So it's incorrect for people to draw penguins pissing

  • Carly H
    Carly H 2 months ago

    Hi I’m charlese

    NGA PHUNG 2 months ago

    We are eating poop great

  • Andre Walker
    Andre Walker 2 months ago

    *Fuck your thieving ancestors!*

  • Enderwarrior X
    Enderwarrior X 2 months ago

    Uuuuuntil the earth erodes.

  • [Insert Name]
    [Insert Name] 2 months ago +1

    Thumbnail: *what everyone says on a video when they are early*

  • Yassin Nabil
    Yassin Nabil 2 months ago

    If you can’t
    Grow a tree
    just have a bird poop on it

  • Crazy Reactions
    Crazy Reactions 3 months ago

    So that’s why bird poop is white and brown, because of mixing the pee with the poop. Also Bird Poop Has Whote And Brown And White And Brown (whoch brown people are called black for some reason) are the two main skin colors. DOES THIS MEAN THAT BIRDS MADE SKIN COLOR EQUALITY BEFORE IT WAS A THING!!!!????? By mixing them it showed that people no matter there skin were going to live Together.

  • Donutzz Chrunzz
    Donutzz Chrunzz 3 months ago

    Horse poop can be turned into a fertilizer.

  • luciano palomba
    luciano palomba 3 months ago

    I thought guano was bat poop...?

  • aquasouf1
    aquasouf1 3 months ago

    Just to not forget that it is a little bit more complicated than that and that adding nitrogen and phosphorus should not be said as "saving" the soil. It could be used as "exhausting the capacity from the soil to ensure crops a few more times". Although this video could be true from a primary view, it is now important to add this chapter to the story.
    Love the drawings anyway and will subscribe the channel!

  • Kakapos And kiwis
    Kakapos And kiwis 3 months ago +1

    Haha Peru has best bird poop

  • WaffleGacha
    WaffleGacha 3 months ago +1

    2:09: and that, my friends, is how the people saying, “first” evolved.

  • Rowan King
    Rowan King 3 months ago


  • Audrey Neucks
    Audrey Neucks 3 months ago

    00:14 Top ten facts about cows. #10 if you hold a cow ass down, it will repeatedly shit uncontrollably.

  • MCPE reviewer B
    MCPE reviewer B 3 months ago

    White colonizers

  • Raj Grandhi
    Raj Grandhi 3 months ago

    I like your videos and maybe you can give your figure a face

  • Octo Epoy
    Octo Epoy 4 months ago

    The thing my grandpa is going to put that bunny poop is good for plants

  • thê mîdnîght K-9
    thê mîdnîght K-9 4 months ago +1

    I wish that we...released waste like birds.

  • War Thunderer
    War Thunderer 4 months ago

    TL;DR fertile farmland was small, europeans found bird shit, sprayed it everywhere and crops grew

  • butt face magy
    butt face magy 4 months ago +1

    So everyone eat poop

  • Julie Ambrose
    Julie Ambrose 4 months ago

    sorry I'm late!

  • FluffyChicken
    FluffyChicken 4 months ago

    I thought that this was going to be sponsored by some DNA kit company because of the ancestor story

  • Aman Chase
    Aman Chase 4 months ago

    It’s so obvious,it’s. Cuss word.

  • Aman Chase
    Aman Chase 4 months ago

    People in this comments probably gonna say this bird blur,oh why can they use chicken blur.

  • XStep 47
    XStep 47 4 months ago

    You know how you said how the atmosphere is slightly made of nitrogen? I think that is one reason plants 🌱 use oxygen

  • Lil Trump
    Lil Trump 4 months ago

    And then.... monsanto came.

  • BadUsername
    BadUsername 4 months ago

    I came from Sam O'Nella's guano insane replacement.

  • Murkish
    Murkish 4 months ago

    wait, so i can use matches for framing?

  • Ricky Torres
    Ricky Torres 5 months ago

    Pet poops can also be used as natural fertilizers. From dogs to cats to your guinea pigs to even your tanks (fresh water obviously). Most of these are straight forwarded (just compost it with the correct balance of poop to carbon) but for cats you has to first use a biodegradable litter mix if you aren't already. Then you can compost their deposits and their boxes once a change is an order.

  • Baryonic Matter
    Baryonic Matter 5 months ago

    Geez that bird is way more useful than I am.

  • Pinchy Cheeks
    Pinchy Cheeks 5 months ago

    Can guano give out diseases?

  • Volt 56 the second time
    Volt 56 the second time 5 months ago +1

    Yes put the poop in the bag or I shoot you

  • NhatAnh0475
    NhatAnh0475 5 months ago

    How to get Ntrogen. Get a fan first :)

  • sivaji velicheti
    sivaji velicheti 5 months ago

    I just realised birds dont pee

  • Hot Dog
    Hot Dog 5 months ago

    Make ,,Why animals don't like albino"

  • Tule Odumah
    Tule Odumah 5 months ago

    Another poop video, seriously though you guys need to check your bowel movements it might be compromised.

  • Spug
    Spug 5 months ago +1

    good thing im eating while watching

  • ジャマイアジャマイアtheunicorn

    So your saying my birds poop changed the world

  • Mckenzie Welsh
    Mckenzie Welsh 5 months ago

    Harvest -> bird -> Peru-> poop->spray on fields -> restart

  • Thanos
    Thanos 5 months ago

    My ancestors lived like my population now there dead like my planet

  • Shaikh Mustafa Salman
    Shaikh Mustafa Salman 5 months ago +1

    upload more you have not uploaded for 2 weeks

  • Kit the Kat
    Kit the Kat 5 months ago

    bat poop is also called guano.

  • Wolf Lover
    Wolf Lover 5 months ago

    Whut did I eat?????

  • Salem ALhamed
    Salem ALhamed 5 months ago

    I hope you add Arabic in all videos.

  • gachaverse girl
    gachaverse girl 5 months ago

    Now I know y my Garden is not growing

  • Trash Furry
    Trash Furry 5 months ago

    I mean.. It's better than killing places off..?

  • Briggsrocks59
    Briggsrocks59 5 months ago

    i think i learned more from this yt channel that all my school combind

  • Oh yeah yeah Oh yeah yeah
    Oh yeah yeah Oh yeah yeah 5 months ago +1

    2:09 Nani!?

    МАРВА КАЮМИ 5 months ago

    Well that. Title sounds SHITTY

  • TransBlox TV
    TransBlox TV 5 months ago

    1:49 read the tittle at the bottom right corner

  • Xavier Wink
    Xavier Wink 5 months ago


  • Pokywan :D
    Pokywan :D 5 months ago +1

    I wanna feed some ramdom birds some beans for some reason
    O yeah to make them poop.

  • class 04d05
    class 04d05 5 months ago

    Marry Christmas

  • The Science Biome
    The Science Biome 5 months ago +1

    Thanks Minute earth, for taking me on an informative and poopy journey.

  • Natasha
    Natasha 5 months ago

    So US is now the whole world. It changed north america, peru and some european countries but not the whole world.

  • Aaaa Bbbb
    Aaaa Bbbb 5 months ago


  • Prospector40
    Prospector40 5 months ago

    One problem with one of our new fertilizer sources. Potash, the main source for potassium, is running out worldwide and unfortunately, we have no source of cheap easy to find potassium. Poop might have to make a comeback, but from another source. Seeing as the ocean receives most of nutrients we eat once they get flushed, these tropical bird islands are one of the few places where we can find concentrated potassium that is pulled directly from the ocean and recycled on the land. Maybe we ought to start protecting these islands more so we can have a source when the mines run dry.

  • Moba Lord
    Moba Lord 5 months ago

    MinuteEarth is awesome!

  • Maskiter Channel
    Maskiter Channel 5 months ago

    Hello everybody! I am wrote a book, but now this book is only on Russian Language. I had a questioin for you, who read this commentary. Can you help me to translet this book? Tematical of book is Literatyre Rpg, if you can help me write on this link: I badly know Englesh for right translet.

  • little dollface
    little dollface 5 months ago

    could you do one on pxe im trying to learn about it and theres not a lot out there i can find ? please

  • coconut jam
    coconut jam 5 months ago

    if you looking for a good soil for farming go to a volcano

    *and jump in it*

  • PoliceBird Growtopia
    PoliceBird Growtopia 5 months ago


  • Filin
    Filin 5 months ago +1

    Россия 🇷🇺

  • Jacob Wh Khu
    Jacob Wh Khu 6 months ago


  • itaybron
    itaybron 6 months ago +1

    Isn't Guano bat poop?

  • Rigging Doctor
    Rigging Doctor 6 months ago

    My great grandmother used to let her chickens run over the fields all winter long. They pooped all winter long and her crops grew wonderfully the next year.

  • Cole Tan
    Cole Tan 6 months ago

    Guano is bat poop

  • Joaquin Vinuela
    Joaquin Vinuela 6 months ago

    *chilean guano mostly, not Peruvian

  • Abster1911
    Abster1911 6 months ago

    Is it true we are running out of phosphorous? How will we manufacture fertilizers without it?

    • Facturacion VH
      Facturacion VH 5 months ago

      It's a serious issue. High demand is causing it so become scarce and the supply won't be enough.

  • Cyril Bornet
    Cyril Bornet 6 months ago

    A word about the ecological disaster that phosphate mining, as a non-renewable resource, leads to, would have been most welcome. And also, why this is directly linked to the urgent need of conserving resources, and why wasting food is absolutely unacceptable in today's world.

  • *Eyepatch_23
    *Eyepatch_23 6 months ago

    In America we move to richer soils

    In Soviet Russia richer soils move to them


  • Moo Moo#3093
    Moo Moo#3093 6 months ago

    OK everybody should like it subscribe to this channel wanna why it is The best USclip channel to get information

  • Tom Headley
    Tom Headley 6 months ago

    I am no longer supporting Patreon because of their banning of personalities that they disagree with. If there is another service that you use, let me know.

  • Virus Renegade
    Virus Renegade 6 months ago

    Normal peeps: sandy springs
    Fortnite niggas: salty springs