Quick Facts

5 Common Bird Feeding Myths

Learn a few quick facts about birds!

There are many untruths associated with birds and bird feeding and they can be extremely persistent, regardless of the actual facts. Being a wild bird feeding business, Duncraft hears them all! One amazing myth that persists is that hummingbirds migrate to South America by hitching rides on the backs of Canadian geese. Canadian geese don’t ever go to South America, much less carry a passenger on their way! Here, Duncraft provides the facts behind five more bird feeding myths.

Myth: If people feed the birds, the birds will become dependent on bird feeders and forget how to find food on their own. This myth is very similar to another—that people shouldn’t feed birds in summer because there’s enough natural food and birds have to learn not to become dependent on bird feeders.

Fact: Birds only get about 25% of their food from feeders. If birds can’t find food at a bird feeder, they continue to find natural food sources in the wild such as insects, weed seeds, buds, sap, spiders, berries and pine nuts. But if a bird feeder goes empty during a very harsh winter, the lack of available food is probably going to be a hardship for the birds. The birds haven’t forgotten how to find food, however, it may be very scarce at certain times of the year. The food they find at a bird feeder is going to be a welcome supplement. If people do feed birds, it’s best to keep feeding during the winter.

Myth: Birds’ feet will stick to metal bird feeder perches in the winter.

Fact: If this were true, birds would be stuck to all kinds of metal things they can land on—trash cans, gutters, metal roofs—duck’s feet would stick to ice and so would a penguin’s. But of course, that doesn’t happen. Birds don’t have sweat glands in their feet, so there’s no moisture there to freeze to anything. Also, there is little blood flow in a bird’s foot, so the bird’s feet are cold in winter. In order for something to stick to cold metal in the winter, it has to be warm and moist—a bird’s feet are cold and dry.

Myth: If birds eat uncooked rice, such as that thrown at weddings, it will swell up in their stomachs and kill them.

Fact: Birds eat uncooked rice and other grains all the time—just ask any rice or wheat farmer! It may be more than most people want to know, but when birds eat food, it first enters a crop which is a storage tank for food. Birds can remove food from their crops anytime they want; that’s how they feed their nestlings. From there, food enters a two-part stomach a little at a time. The first part digests the food and the second part, the gizzard, grinds up the food. The gizzard uses grit–small grains of sand birds pick up on purpose–to help grind the food. So, rice, seeds and grains are easily dispatched by birds because birds are made to eat those foods!

Myth: If people keep feeding hummingbirds in the fall, the birds will stay around the feeder and won’t migrate.

Fact: Hummingbirds migrate whether they are fed or not. The trigger to begin migration is day length. As the day length and the amount of light decreases during the fall, hummingbirds instinctively begin to eat a lot more, putting on fat stores for their migration. They also need nourishment during migration. Keeping a feeder out later than normal, say around the beginning of October, may help feed birds from further north as they fly southward.

Myth: If a baby bird is found on the ground, out of the nest, it shouldn’t be put back in the nest because the parents will detect a human scent and reject the baby.

Fact: Birds have a very poor sense of smell and wouldn’t be able to detect any human scent on a baby bird. Ornithologists often handle baby birds for one reason or another with no impact on the family. Also, a bird’s instinct to parent is incredibly strong—too strong to abandon their babies for almost any reason. Happy Birding!

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  • Reply Vel June 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for separating myths from facts!

  • Reply Dianne July 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    What a wonderful article! I always wonder, when I see so many birds in the downtown area where I work, how they can find enough to eat. Thanks to you, I can now quit wondering (and worrying!).
    Also, I will now keep my hummingbird feeders out until later in the fall.

  • Reply Jerry Yeagle July 3, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Thanks for keeping us educated about birds and separating facts from fiction. We all hear these little myths and believe that’s how it is.
    Keep up the great work!

  • Reply Duncraft--Roxanne Brune July 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Thank you all for the kind comments!

  • Reply Lynn Alessandro August 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Does anybody have a magic trick or solution to keep house finches and cowbirds from taking over birdfeeders?

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