Bird Watcher's General Store

Throw Birdseed at Weddings - 11/28/03


Dear Bird Folks,

I'm the maid of honor at my sister's spring wedding. Before I do too much planning I need to know if it is really okay to throw rice. Some people tell me rice is bad for birds and that we should throw birdseed instead. You are probably going to tell me to throw birdseed since that is what you sell, but is rice really that bad?

-Kathy, Eastham

Hold on Kathy,

Are you saying I would purposely mislead you in order to sell more birdseed? Well, I am ashamed. I'm not ashamed of you, but at myself for not thinking about doing that before. What a great idea. If this economy doesn't improve soon, I just might answer every question with, "buy birdseed," no matter what the question is. But right now, you'll have to settle for the truth. Or at least the truth the way I see it.

Here's the theory on wedding rice. After the happy wedding couple leaves the church, all their so-called friends show their love by pelting them with fists full of hard, uncooked rice. If they somehow are able to survive that, the couple drives away and all the tossed rice is left lying, unguarded, on the sidewalk. Soon a flock of innocent birds arrives to chow down whatever rice didn't get lodged in the target victim's eyes, ears and underwear. Once ingested, the harmless rice quickly expands to fifty thousand times its original size, causing the birds to inflate to roughly the size of the Hindenburg. Not only is this rapid expansion bad for the birds, but the bird's massive bodies can block traffic for hours.

This might come as a surprise to many, but rice is a grain. Grains, seeds and nuts are what birds have survived on for centuries. Ask any rice farmer and they will tell you that they could only hope that birds would over-inflate upon stealing their rice. The rice that thousands of bird are eating in rice fields every day, is the same rice that you buy in the store or that you throw at weddings. Rice, cooked or uncooked, will not bother the birds. But I wouldn't throw cooked rice at your sister's wedding without checking with her first or without letting it cool.

If I were you Kathy, I still would throw birdseed. Birdseed is trendy. Plus, the local birds will enjoy it more than rice and if you bought a whole pound of seed from me, I would finally pass Bill Gates on the Forbes richest man in the world list. Won't he be surprise!

While I'm on the subject of myths, here are a few more about birds' eating habits that never seem to go away.

Peanut butter will cause birds to choke. Yeah, sure, maybe, if you were to hold a bird's mouth open and jam a shovel full of peanut butter in it. We would choke too if we did the same. Birds, like us, eat proportionately the right amount of food at one time. A chickadee only takes a tiny bit of peanut butter at once. the proper amount for a bird of that size to handle without choking. Birds, just like people, do occasionally have trouble and do indeed choke on food, but that is rare. The bad thing for birds is not eating peanut butter, but trying to Heimlich each other with their wings. They can't seem to get the grip right.

This last food myth is as whacky as the rice thing. Rumor has it if you toss a gull an Alka-Seltzer, the gull will eat it and explode. That's right, explode. Listen, Alka-Seltzer might taste bad but it's not dynamite, it's medicine. Do you really think that they would sell it to people if it made things explode? All it does is produce gas and most creatures have a way ridding themselves of gas, with only small explosions. Like many birds, gulls are masters at regurgitating things that don't agree with them. Even though they may not explode, I'm certainly not recommending anyone give gulls Alka-Seltzer. Although, after what I've seen gulls eat, they probably wouldn't mind a few tablets.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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