Is throwing rice at weddings bad for birds? (2023)



Wedding guests should avoid throwing rice at newlywed couples, as rice kills birds that eat it.


WrongAbout this review

We are warned against throwing rice at the bride and groom, as the grain will be harmful to the birds that come down to eat it. The rice will swell in those little bird stomachs and blow our bird mates apart, we were warned. This rumor was so widespread that in 1985 a Connecticut state legislatureinserteda bill (amusingly titled "An Act Prohibiting the Use of Uncooked Rice in Marital Affairs") to ban the practice:

A state legislator said it was unhealthy for the birds and proposed a bill that would ban the traditional bathing of raw rice on newlyweds at Connecticut weddings.

According to Representative Mae S. Schmidle's proposal, "a law prohibiting the use of uncooked rice in marriage matters" would establish that "no one shall play, throw, or toss uncooked rice at any time during the celebration of a marriage." .

The Newtown bill's "statement of purpose" said it would "prevent injury and death to birds from eating uncooked rice thrown at weddings."

"Whatever rice is left over that isn't in your hair, suit or bouquet, you leave it to the birds," he explained.

“Unfortunately, birds cannot digest raw rice, when it reaches the stomach, it expands and causes them to die violently. I've heard from several ministers that the next morning after a wedding they saw it all overrun with birds because they had rice poisoning," Schmidle said.

His bill would impose a $50 fine on anyone caught throwing rice at a wedding.

However, local ornithologists said they had never heard or seen birds dying after eating rice thrown at weddings:

Although he said the Audubon Society considers the idea "wonderful", an analysis involving three Audubon members from Connecticut found no such appreciation of the idea.

"That sounds crazy," said Roland C. Clement of Norwalk, former president of the Connecticut Audubon Society and current president of the Connecticut Ornithological Association.

“I have 50 years of experience as a practicing ornithologist and I have never heard of anything like this. Of course there can always be a first time, but I need to see some evidence before I take the idea any further."

When asked if he thought raw rice could kill birds, Clement said, "Personally, I doubt it."

Karl Wagener, a former top official with the Connecticut Audubon Society who now chairs the state's Board of Environmental Quality, also questioned the necessity of Schmidle's bill.
“I've never heard of anything like it, and I've read a lot of bird-related literature,” he said.

David Emerson, associate director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, said the issue has not come up in any discussions within the Society that he is aware of.

Advice columnist Ann Landers repeated this legend by "informing" her readers not to throw rice at weddings, an act that was frowned upon by ornithologists:

The US Rice Federation in Houston has a message for columnist Ann Landers: Stand up and fly well when talking about birds. In a recent column, Landers warned readers that throwing rice at weddings is unhealthy for our feathered friends: "Encourage guests to throw rose petals instead of rice. Rice is not good for birds."

"This silly myth comes up regularly and is completely unfounded," replied rice expert Mary Jo Cheesman of the US Rice Federation. to the northern nesting sites.

Raw milled rice is no more harmful to birds than field rice, Cheesman said. The curator of ornithology at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees.

"It's a myth. There's no reason birds, including small songbirds, can't eat rice," said Ned Johnson, a biology professor at Berkeley who frequently lectures on bird food and feeding.

Ann posted a response from a New York ornithologist criticizing her for spreading misinformation:

I am writing to you in response to a letter and your response recently published in the Ithaca Journal.

It is absolutely not true that rice (even instant) can kill birds. This rumor became known because of a bill introduced by Mae Schmidle in the Connecticut legislature in 1985.

This crazy story made thousands of brides afraid to put birdseed in tulle and gauze bags so guests wouldn't spill rice and "kill the birds."

Rice is not a threat to birds. It needs to be cooked before expanding. In addition, all the food that birds swallow is crushed in their stomachs by powerful muscles and sand. Many birds love rice, as any frustrated rice farmer will tell you.

I hope you print this information in your column and dispel this myth. In the meantime, keep throwing rice, guys. The tradition will be served and the birds will eat well and be healthy.

Steven C. Sibley,
Cornell's Ornithological Work,
Ithaca, New York

Dear Steven Sibley, Your letter proves once again that if a story is repeated over and over again, people will believe it, even if it is wrong and defies all logic.

We checked with an official at the Bird House at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo and they confirmed what they said. I'm ashamed to agree with this ship. I feel like a bird brain.

As noted in these responses to Ann Landers spreading this rumour, many wild birds eat naturally grown raw rice without suffering death or other ill effects. Based on our culinary experience, the notion that rice absorbs moisture and would swell to many times its original size in a bird's crop, thus cracking the bird from the inside, is a misconception. We usually cook rice before eating it, and rice grains absorb a lot of moisture during the process. But on the other hand, rice absorbs moisture very slowly, and the inside of birds is not as hot or humid as a pot of boiling water - any raw rice that birds eat is digested or excreted long before they can absorb enough water. to expand to the point of injury.

Still, nothing satisfies curious minds like empirical evidence, so James Krupa, a professor of biology at the University of Kentucky, put things to the test with his students in 2002 and conducted experiments that he eventually published in the April 2005 issue of the published journal.american biology teacherunder the heading "A CLASSROOM EXERCISE TO TEST THE URBAN MYTH: Honeymoon Rice Pops Birds, or Were Ann Landers, Martha Stewart, and Bart Simpson Wrong?"

One factor Krupa and his students measured how much rice actually swells when immersed in water. They found that the volume of soaked white rice increased by 33%, which may sound like a lot, but not that much compared to common birdseed, which increased in size by an even greater percentage (40%). If a 33% increase in the amount of rice eaten can cause birds to explode, then birdseed should turn even more of them into bird bombs.

Krupa's group found that instant rice, both brown and white varieties, expands significantly more (2.4 to 2.7 times its original volume) when soaked than regular white rice. Instant rice isn't usually the kind people throw at weddings (because it's more expensive and harder to buy in bulk), but the researchers tested the possibilities by building models of bird cultures out of thin plastic and paper, wetting them, and using them. filled with instant rice. Rice. Although a paper bag full of soggy instant white rice will pop in about 15 minutes, none of the Vogel Crop models will pop.

Krupa's students persuaded him to test the rice explosion theory on real birds as well, an argument he eventually agreed with, believing that his previous experiments had sufficiently demonstrated that no birds would be harmed by the process. He agreed to do some rice-feeding trials with flocks of pigeons and pigeons he kept at home, feed 60 of his birds nothing but instant rice and water for a day, and monitor them for ill effects. He noticed that none of the birds showed obvious signs of pain, discomfort or stress; none of them suffered fractures or other injuries (including blasts), and none of them became ill or died.

Many churches and reception halls still have rules against dumping rice, or require that dumped rice be kept in these "little tulle and gauze bags." However, this practice is not intended to protect the birds: these rules exist to keep the land clean, so that subsequent happy couples do not say goodbye among the remains of a previous couple. Rice and confetti can be notoriously difficult to clean, and sometimes even vacuuming the weed won't restore it to its original condition.

Rice also poses a unique danger, though more to humans than birds: if rice is spilled onto a hard surface (such as church steps or a dance floor), anyone walking on that surface is at risk. to get hurt. Banning the throwing of rice at a wedding is much better than ending up with an injured guest.

Don't do it for the birds, do it for the in-laws.

sightings:EmThe SimpsonsIn the May 14, 2000 episode, Bart is warned not to throw rice at Otto's wedding so as not to make the birds explode. Also on the July 16, 2001 episode of the telenovelapassionsCharity told Tabitha that they don't throw rice at weddings anymore, citing the premise of this legend as the reason. And in an episode of the television comedyCybill("Bachelor Party", first aired January 6, 1997) tells Holly (Ira's fiancée) that rice should not be thrown at her wedding because "it makes the doves explode".

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