Written by Raymond Nakamura
Once upon a time (before the Internet), Raymond earned his doctorate studying the hydrodynamics of sand dollars. Nowadays he rents his brain at raymondsbrain.com for writing, cartooning, and thinking, when he is not washing the dishes, walking the dog, or helping his daughter with homework. Follow him on Twitter @raymondsbrain.

Origin of the Pope's Nose?

Created date

Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 9:00am

Ever Wonder about the Pope's Nose?

I'm not talking about the actual Pope's actual nose. I'm talking about the tail end of a bird, like a chicken or turkey. Whenever we have chicken or turkey, my wife claims it, insisting it is the best part. I didn’t even realize this was thing until I met her, so I have no particular affinity for it, but I wondered why it was called the pope's nose and what it does for a chicken.


I couldn't find a good explanation for the origin of the pope's nose, but I came across an amusing anecdote from England. Supposedly a carpenter, unhappy with the tardy payment for his work at , around the year 1400, carved a bird with a rump featuring the big nose of the delinquent vicar within the decorations. This sounds more like an explanation of parson’s nose, which may or may not have arisen after the Reformation, though that would be after this story was supposed to have taken place. Perhaps not surprisingly, the website of said church did not mention this story, though they do have an old and beautiful building. 


The scientific term for the pope's nose is the . This is the part that holds the tail feathers. It also includes the , also known as the or oil gland. Some sites equate the pope's nose with the , but that is the term for the underlying skeleton, like our tailbone, which consists of fused vertebrae. Apparently, it has a in diving birds and that difference is related to how they use the tail as a rudder. 


You may have birds preening and scratching their butts with their bills. They may have been accessing the , a small nipple-like structure under the feathers. It is not obvious unless you’re looking at a dressed bird on your dinner table. It produces an oil that keeps feathers in good condition, among other things. For some birds, it may be a precursor of that then gets absorbed through the skin. In water birds, like ducks and geese, it helps make their feathers waterproof. I don't know if the pope's nose tastes different in them, but some recipes that suggest cutting off the uropygium because of bitterness might have come from those birds. In female chickens, the gland produces a "fowl" , which is attractive to mates. Funny that the pope's nose would have a function related to smell and sex. What I found surprising was that the oil also seems to enhance the abundance of . These tiny spider relatives feed on microbes that would otherwise harm the eggs of the bird. So the broad correlation was bigger uropygial gland, healthier eggs. On the other hand, some birds, like the  chicken breed, are "rumpless" and do not have a uropygium. Nonetheless, the pope's nose has a lot going on in there; it's nothing to sneeze at.

Given a plate of chicken parts, would you pick the pope's nose?



I heard the term when I was

I heard the term when I was growing up, but I thought it was only Protestants that used it, as an insult to the Pope. Do Catholics use the term?

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Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, let alone the content! aeekdcfegede

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