Fact or Fiction: Never Feed Rice To Birds

Fact or Fiction: Never Feed Rice To Birds Featured Image

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.




  • Hi, I would like to know if it is ok for pidgeons, doves, birds can eat raw, uncooked white rice? I also wonder if there is nutritional value in the rice for birds, at all even a bit..
    I hope for an answer! And thank you, in advance.

  • Logic tells us that organic foods are better for us. Why? Because the pesticides we use today are based on the nerve gases developed during World War I (and washing non-organically grown will at best remove about 1/3 of pesticide residues). So when you eat non-organically grown crops, you are in effect literally eating something that is designed to kill you.

  • In fact, organisms referred to by the shorthand of “GMOs” are far different than those produced by nature or ordinary breeding techniques. GMOs are created by forcing together genes which would not otherwise mix, for example – believe it or not – those of fish and corn. And yes, people ARE getting sick from GMOs: “bt-spliced” crops have had their genes spliced with a naturally-occurring bacillus which produces a pesticide which works by poking holes in the intestinal tract until the insect dies. In nature this bacillus exists only on the outside of said crops, and the bt-toxin degrades after 24 hours of exposure to light and oxygen, thereby becoming harmless. Bt-spliced crops, however, produce the bt-toxin internally and so it never has a chance to degrade. So unless you could somehow crack open every cell of every bt-spliced plant you wanted to eat and let it sit out for a day, you are ingesting the bt-toxin. Finally, a couple of small hints that bt-spliced crops might be bad for you is that wild mice will not eat them even if they have to leave a safe area to find other food, and that experimental animals will not eat them on their own and have to be forced to do so by threading a tube down into their stomachs.


  • GMO food making people sick…uh-huh. Every fruit and vegetable we eat has been genetically modified. Genetic modification happens all the time by sheer random chance; welcome to planet Earth. This kind of idiotic pseudoscience is everywhere and if anything is making people sick, it’s stress caused by needless worry, anti-vaxxers, avoiders of modern medical science and the like.

  • ducks and geese eat rice all of the time. Just watch them in a field of recently harvested rice. the same goes for corn or wheat ir barley or millet. …

  • The comment about not feeding bread is born of ignorance. The main benefit of GMO is that it allows the crop to self protect itself from pests, fungus, etc. By doing this the farmer uses much less pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. So you can eat GMO crops which have been engineered to resist harm, or you can eat those crops which are covered in poisons to protect them.

    • Doug, you write that ” The main benefit of GMO is that it allows the crop to self protect itself from pests, fungus, etc. By doing this the farmer uses much less pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.” Not so fast. Have you not heard of Roundup-ready crops? The genetic change makes the plant immune from being killed by Roundup so farmers can spray even more herbicides.

  • I’m no expert but I can share my experience first hand. We have been feeding birds, mainly pigeons, uncooked rice for years. It’s the quality we eat ourselves. If it’s mixed with other types of food then the birds prefer to eat that first. I think they find it a bit boring, who wouldn’t want a bit of variation. Birds are clever and have their own instincts. We have great love and respect for birds and trust them to let us know if they don’t like something when they choose not to eat it.

    Generally speaking, same birds visit us every day and we have seen them grow and multiply. When it comes to rice (cooked or raw) I don’t think there is any harm in feeding them.

  • I have eleven healthy happy budgies and I never give them rice. Quinoa is packed with nutrients and a great source of protein, they love it. I include it with their salad, only the organic quinoa!

  • I have some left over cooked rice and was wondering if the birds will eat it. I throw bread to them daily and te come expecting to be fed something…

  • Many seeds expand when wet and they don’t cause birds problems. Also, the myth goes further back than 1996. In the early 80s, we through bird seed at brides and grooms instead of rice, so as not to harm birds when they ate rice. ?

  • 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.


  • Understandably, uncooked rice will not reach cooking temperatures in a bird’s stomach, but in an effort to be extra careful, I soaked some white rice in cold water to see if it would swell. It did. It seems then, that when a bird drinks, the rice could become a problem.

  • I dont understand why I have seen suggestions to feed cheese to birds. Just because they will eat it, does not mean it’s okay to give it to them. Mammals produce and eat dairy…but birds?! I was told many years ago by a wildlife rehabilitationist never to give milk to baby birds. She said that it turns to a concrete in their stomachs and kills them! So how is it okay to give birds other dairy products?

  • I feed my birds fruit and salad with bird seeds and a little bread and other kitchen left over. They particularly like kiwis apples lettuce mashed potatoes and cheese sauce Thaqey have many a party in my garden. I hope others will give a few party’s!!!

  • While rice might not kill birds, I wonder if it is as devoid of nutritional value to birds as it is in humans. A full stomach that contains ingested material with little to no nutritional value is not good. Eating a diet of corn and peanuts is not a normal diet for squirrels and is not a healthy diet for them which can ultimately lead to other diseases killing them. Feed our feathered friends bird food.

  • Rice which is not organic contains high levels of arsenic. Google it. Good reason not to feed it to birds. If its rancid and you wouldn’t eat it then please don’t feed it to wild animals and birds. Thanks on behalf of those you can not speak for themselves.

  • I needed to know if raw rice was safe for birds.. got my answer here… plus I found out a few other interesting tid bits about birds:: I enjoyed it!

  • I can not for the life of me figure out why it is any easier to clean up any variety of bird seed than rice. That is preposterous–vacuum it up. Trouble with bird seed is it does germinate in the lawn and shrub areas and then the gardener must deal with that weed.

  • We once were trying to rescue a baby duck that was orphaned. He looked maybe a few days old… perhaps five inches tall when upright. We didn’t know what they should eat because this was before the internet was around. He gobbled up some bread bits and uncooked white rice, but not tons of it. The baby duckling was dead in the morning. No joke. Maybe older birds have some grit in their gizzard which can digest the stuff? He was not injured or sick before we went to bed that night and was kept warm indoors sleeping in a closed cardboard box of towels for a nest. He had just been swimming around in the bathtub happily before bed, wagging his tail a lot. And was dried off before bed. I’ll refrain from feeding birds uncooked rice because I’ve seen what it *can* do to young birds. Situations like ours might be was caused the “myth” to exist. It’s not always a myth.

    • Sometimes baby birds just die. Stress is a big factor for birds. Stress can very quickly kill them. Even as an experienced owner of parrots, mostly the lovely GCC, i understand that sometimes, they just die. We seperate new birds for forty days, or more, plus vet check before we will let them near our other birds. Birds are also amazing at hiding illness. Most people do not know a bird is sick until it is to late. If my parrots were sick, the only clue i may have is that they may act a bit off. There are very small clues, such as being puffed up, or sitting on the ground of their homes (i understand ducklings are always on the ground, so that cant be used as a tool). Though if you, or someone else were to come into the home and meet them, most likely you wouldnt be able to know the animal is ill or stressed. You really, REALLY have to know the individual to know how they act to tell if they are sick. We feed our parrots cooked rice all the time. Ive never given them raw rice. I will state that up front. They do both enjoy bread as a treat. Unfortunitly, most likely, the baby duck died from stress or an illness you couldnt see, or even shock, instead of food. Rice is deffenitly a food ducks would eat in the wild, and they dont have owners to cook it for them, and they do eat bread all the time in the wild. If bread was a duck killer, little kids wouldnt be taken to the park to throw bread at the ducklings because there would be dead ducks and geese lining the shore.

      • Thanks Jo for providing your insight. Please feel free to let us know about any other myths you may have heard about wild birds.

    • Do not feed birds bread. Many breads contain genetically modified grains and ingredients. Humans are getting sick from GMOs because our bodies do not recognize and can not digest genetically altered food. Many of the ingredients are not organic and therefore pesticides are an issue. Non-organic rice can be GMO, covered in pesticides and laced with arsenic. Please do not feed birds anything but organic seed and/or nut mixtures. It is healthy for them and not covered with pesticides or genetically modified. Poor baby duck died of human food poisoning. Thanks from an ethical vegan speaking on behalf of those who can not speak for themselves. Oh, and please do throw organic millet at your next wedding!

      • Sorry, Olga, but “GMO” being bad is a myth in and of itself. There’s nothing wrong with GMO. Carrots wouldn’t be orange, and corn would be unrecognisable to us today if it weren’t genetically modified.
        And no, humans are not getting sick from GMOs.

        Please don’t let buzzwords like “organic” and “natural” fool you, they’re no better than other foods. (Arsenic is natural, by the way.) (Along with cyanide.) (And uranium.)

    • Perhaps in this situation you overfed him the bread and rice together could have been terrible for its tummy. They are very high warnings with squirrels overfed, if they eat til bloated it will cause them to die. I’m talking about milk they intake of course. I think that’s what happened here is you gave it to much.

    • We have raised domestic ducks and tried to rescue orphaned wild ducklings. We already had special feed for ducklings. The wild ducklings never seemed to survive more than 24 hours. I doubt the rice had anything to do with the ducklings death. It is best to find a place equipped to aid wild birds.

    • I care for wild ducks and all their ducklings. It is an innocent mistake that people make, but actually bread and rice is bad for ducklings, especially bread. It is basically nothing more than sugar. It can be harmful in excess and will like sugars in a human, causes weight gain in the older ducks causing the birds to no longer be able to fly at a decent height. It is fine as a once in a while “treat” for a duck/bird but the issue is at parks everyone feeds them bread… very bad. The duckling may have had other issues wrong. My wild ducklings at about 2 weeks will eat the flock starter feed I set out for them, because it is VERY fine…but prior to that, mom has them eating in the grass and certain weeds. I have gone from 5 wild ducks about 4 years ago, to now on generations later of 80+, all wild still. We have the recent landing of flock of about 20 Black-bellied Whistling ducks about 3 weeks ago…that turned into over 100 once they all settled . It was beautiful… and some had babies… it was amazing. They recently migrated. But they devoured the daily buckets of Flock Raiser I set out.. the mallards are glad they left I think.

      • 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 bird do produce a form of “milk” for their young. Here’s an interesting article on the subject.
        How Pigeons Produce Milk

  • /while white rice is stable and can last nearly forever, brown rice still has oil in the brown outside and becomes rancid. When I have old brown rice, rather than cooking it 45 minutes and finding it with a rancid taste, I toss it. I have not given it to birds, thinking it to be harmful.What a waste. Now I know birds
    can eat it.

    • Charles,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Please feel free to share it. This may help others as well.

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