Bird Feeding Myths

Winter is a perfect season for bird watching---when the garden is covered in snow, there's not a heck of a lot else to look at outside! Over the years, you've certainly heard many warnings about what may happen if you start feeding birds. Let's settle some of those myths once and for all.


Winter is a perfect season for bird watching---when the garden is covered in snow, there's not a heck of a lot else to look at outside! Over the years, you've certainly heard many warnings about what may happen if you start feeding birds. Let's settle some of those myths once and for all.

Myth #1: If you feed birds, they'll become dependent. Not true. Birds are very resourceful creatures, and they'll look for all food opportunities. Sure, feeders are convenient, but birds still rely on their natural instincts to find other sources of food. In other words, if the feeders are empty birds will not starve.

Myth #2: If birds eat rice their stomachs will swell and they will explode. This gory legend has led to many a bride and groom tossing bird seed instead of rice. Truth is rice is just fine for birds. In fact, some birds eat wild rice with no ill effects. Rice is a valuable grain for the bird diet, and you can add it to feeders uncooked or cooked.

Myth #3: Metal bird feeder perches and freeze bird feet. Bird feet are surprisingly well insulated against cold weather, and their feet do not have sweat glands that would create the moisture to freeze feet to a metal perch (a la "tongue frozen to ski lift", like in Dumb & Dumber). As long as the metal perch stays dry, there's no danger of birds getting stuck.

Myth #4: Feeding birds in fall will disrupt migration patterns. Birds' migration patterns are based on a number of instinctual drives and external influences, including the length of the day. Less daylight triggers birds to begin their journey, and food from a feeder won't stop them from doing what they are meant to do. (See Myth #1.)

Myth #5: Birds can choke on peanut butter. There are no recorded cases of birds choking on peanut butter, and peanut butter is actually a healthy source of fats and other nutrients for birds. many seem to like the taste as well. If choking concerns you, mix the peanut butter with bird seed or corn meal for a crumbly, easier-to-swallow treat.

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