Fact or Fiction: Feeding Wild Birds Makes Them Lazy

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It’s fiction. Despite years of research that can find no evidence of any harm from feeding wild birds and studies showing birds use feeders for only about 25% of their diet, the myth that feeding wild birds will make them too lazy to find food still persists. According to the Humane Society of the United States, experts still disagree about whether feeding backyard birds will increase bird populations overall; however, they say feeding birds can certainly help the birds in your neighborhood. In fact, the Humane Society encourages people to feed wild birds, especially in the winter. Below is advice from the Humane Society of the United States website about placing feeders.

Birds are most likely to eat where they feel safe from predators, including free roaming cats. Place feeders twelve feet from a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can quickly fly twelve feet to reach the safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. As further protection, place chicken wire or thorny branches around ground-level feeders. 

Fact or Fiction: Never Feed Rice To Birds

We’ve all heard the warning: don’t feed rice to birds or don’t throw rice at weddings because birds will eat it. Fact is, rice cooked or uncooked won’t hurt wild birds at all. The rumor is that uncooked rice hits the bird’s tummy and then swells causing its stomach to explode. It’s simply not true. It’s not hot enough in a bird’s stomach to actually “cook” the rice. So, the rice doesn’t swell and cause any sort of an explosion.

According to Snopes.com, the rumor was perpetuated in a 1996 Ann Landers column. But, no need to worry. Birds eat rice during migration all the time, and they do just fine. While the  rumor that eating rice kills birds isn’t true, fact is it’s been so popular that the rumor has pretty much killed the tradition of throwing rice at weddings. It may be for the best. Rice probably isn’t the easiest thing for churches to have to clean. Many people have switched from throwing rice to throwing white millet at weddings. It’s environmentally friendly for the birds, and it’s soft on the happy couple.

Please send us your fact or fiction questions. You can also visit ColesWildBird.com and ask Professor Jay all your burning bird questions. Whether he gives you an accurate answer or not, he claims to know it all, and you’ll have fun listening to him come up with some sort of answer.

Many of our comments are about what you can and can’t feed birds. In general, it is not recommended to feed wild or domestic birds dairy on a regular basis; however, in small amounts, cheese, yogurt, and occasional sips of milk are not considered harmful.  Interestingly, like mammals some wild birds do produce a form of “milk” for their young.  Below is an interesting article on the subject.