I’m sure you’ve heard the urban legend that feeding birds uncooked rice might eventually kill them by swelling in their gut and making their stomach explode. The theory is partially true for smaller birds, which cannot digest uncooked rice.
But Fortunately, It is not true in the case of pigeons. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, pigeons can eat and digest rice.
Yes, Pigeons Can Eat Rice!
The myth about pigeons being unable to digest rice started in 1985. But it became popular with an advice column written by Ann Landers in the mid-’90s which advised wedding-goers not to throw rice at weddings as it could harm the birds or even kill them.
This is nothing more than a myth that went viral, and now everyone seems to believe it. No longer is rice thrown at weddings due to this myth, and people who come out to city parks to feed the birds don’t bring rice either.
However, there is no evidence to prove it right. Rice in any form, cooked or uncooked does not damage the bird’s gut.
Rice has to be boiled in water at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit to cook and swell. However, the internal temperature of a bird is 37 degrees Celsius or 98 degrees Fahrenheit. So, it is practically impossible for the rice to be cooked or swollen in their digestive tracts.
Moreover, the high metabolism in birds ensures that any food they eat is quickly digested and converted to energy. The strong crop muscles and gizzards help the birds to digest the food instantly. Rice or any other grain does not stay in their stomachs for long enough time to be cooked.
Uncooked Rice is Okay for Pigeons
It is likely that rice is not a pigeon’s favorite food, and while city pigeons might turn up their beaks at it, wild pigeons have certainly eaten plenty of uncooked rice on their migration paths for years and years. The natural moisture within a bird’s gut will surely make the rice grain somewhat soft, but it will not expand enough to harm the bird.
Neither will the grain of rice be too hard or sharp for the pigeon to digest nor will it be difficult to swallow as they have a large esophagus. Pigeons eat various grains if they are scavenging near farmlands and will feast on wheat grains and kernels of corn that have perhaps fallen to the ground. Rice is a grain as well, and therefore it is perfectly okay for pigeons to eat.
Just make sure if you are tossing uncooked rice it is for pigeons and not for smaller birds. The large grains of uncooked rice can only be eaten safely by larger birds such as pigeons, blue jays, and doves.
Cooked Rice is Okay for Pigeons too
Whether white or brown rice, cooked rice can be an excellent food source for pigeons, especially in the colder months when there might not be any food to forage. Even if you’re still a little leery about feeding pigeons uncooked rice, cooked rice is easily digested by birds.
However, take note that it is never a good idea to add salt into whatever rice you choose to cook for pigeons, as salt in high dosages can be very harmful to birds. In fact, you don’t need to add any flavoring at all, merely boil some plain rice and lay it out for them.
Can Baby Pigeons Eat Uncooked Rice?
Baby birds do not eat on their own and are fed by their parents. The parent birds break down the grain into small pieces and mix them with other food before feeding them to the baby pigeons. There are very less chances of baby pigeons choking by swallowing uncooked rice as their esophagus is big enough to easily swallow the grains.
The Urban Legend is False
This urban legend about birds and rice simply isn’t true. No one throws rice at weddings anymore, yet maybe that’s a good thing after all because uncooked rice is hard to clean off the ground. However, as far as this myth goes, which began with Ann Landers in the mid-90s and perpetuated all these years later, it’s for the birds!