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Birds And Rice - Debunking The Myth

by Judy Lewis, Web Mistress,

Somehow an Urban Legend has been created that claims that rice is dangerous when ingested by birds. Proponents of this myth suggest throwing seeds as an alternatives to rice. No doubt the birds will appreciate the seeds far better than the rice, but it will not harm them. An Urban Legend is a myth or story that is propagated and expanded upon because it is passed from person to person, via E-mail, or appears in a "recognized" media source. Along the way it gains credibility.

In researching this myth, several authoritative sources helped to debunk it. For those who are interested here are the sources ...

This was the response to a 1996 Ann Landers column in which she "informed" readers about the danger rice poses to birds. The USA Rice Federation in Houston's message for advice columnist Ann Landers was - "straighten up and fly right when you talk about birds." In a column, Landers had warned readers that throwing rice at weddings is unhealthy for our feathered friends.

The Federation added "This silly myth pops up periodically, and it is absolutely unfounded ... Many migrating ducks and geese depend on winter-flooded rice fields each year to fatten up and build strength for their return trek to northern nesting grounds. Uncooked, milled rice is no more harmful to birds than rice in the field." Another authority, the Curator of Ornithology at the University of California at Berkeley, agrees. Ned Johnson, a professor of biology at Berkeley who lectures frequently on the food and feeding of birds, added, "It's a myth. There is no reason why birds, including small songbirds, can't eat rice."

The National Wildlife Federation presents this MYTH-BUSTER: "You may have heard that, when birds eat rice thrown at a wedding, the rice swells so much inside their bellies that they pop. Sounds awful, doesn't it? But have you ever seen any exploding birds after a wedding? It never happens. In fact, birds are often big pests in rice fields. Some rice farmers may wish the pesky birds would explode, but they never do!"

Cornell Lab of Ornithology comments: "Lots of birds eat uncooked rice in the wild. Bobolinks, sometimes called "rice birds", are a good example. While rice is okay for birds, many wedding parties now throw bird seed instead."

So, throw rice if you're a traditionalist and substitute bubbles or bird seed or petals if you're not!


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