Do birds die if they eat rice?

by savannah

These days most people don’t throw rice at weddings because people say birds will eat the rice and their stomachs will rupture. This isn’t true. Birds can actually eat rice and go on with their day just fine.

Rice is a seed. Birds eat seeds. Rice does expand when it boils, but a bird’s stomach cannot boil it. Some people raise the question if there is a difference between instant and dried rice on their birds’ stomach.

The reality is that most people don’t throw instant rice at weddings because it’s more expensive than dried rice. So can instant rice hurt a bird? Instant rice shouldn’t be a problem at first glance because it takes a temperature of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit to boil dried instant rice. A pigeon’s usual temperature is around 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit.

So a few students at the University of Kentucky tested this theory in 2002. Biologist Jim Krupa was inspired to do this little study after he asked his 600 students what they thought of the myth. Almost half of them thought it would kill the birds.

The seeds usually thrown at weddings are normal bird seeds. These actually expand more than rice. Rice expands about 33% while bird seeds expands at 40%. Instant rice expands at 270% which seems like a lot while brown instant rice expands at 240% its original volume.

For the actual study, the students went to work with actual birds. Krupa owned a huge flock of doves and pigeons he lent for testing. The students fed them nothing but instant rice and water for 12 hours. They took a gamble on these birds wondering if they would fall over dead or just keep eating. Nothing exciting happened. After 12 hours, they were still snacking on their rice happily.

Rice is a special little piece of food. You can actually cook it in a very nutritious way. You take brown rice, wash it then soak it in 100 degree water. Then you cook the rice normally. It’s the second highest produced grain in the world. It only follows corn. People around the world eat rice. It’s not that hard on your stomach as a human. It might not be tasty to eat unprepared, and it’s a tough food, but it shouldn’t be something that hurts anyone.

So, how did this myth start? No one really knows for sure. It’s been around for a few decades. Back in 1985, Mae S. Schmidle, a state representative from Connecticut, tried to pass a law outlawing bird seed at weddings. She claimed this law would get bird seed
thrown out of weddings to “prevent injury and death of birds”, called “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs”. The thought behind this law was that the rice would expand in their stomachs causing birds to have painful deaths.

At this time a few ornithologists stepped forward claiming this wasn’t true. Most said even after being in practice for decades, they had never heard of this happening to a bird. There was never any evidence to support the bill. It was not passed.

Though rice is not harmful to birds, some churches do not allow it for weddings. It can be very difficult to pick up and provides debris. If there aren’t enough birds around to eat the seed, it becomes litter. It’s also a slipping hazard to those walking in the area.

The bottom line is that rice isn’t scary for birds. They simply cannot boil the rice with their stomachs. These birds actually swallow things, and their powerful muscles and the stuff in their gizzards grounds up the food.

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