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Bird Myths

Posted by ESEM | Added on : June 30, 2010 11:05am | Last edited: June 30, 2010 11:08am | Viewed 2905 times | 0 Comments


Bird watching has its own set of myths. The following are among the most persistent, some of them popping up every few months. What they all have in common is that they are not true. Entertaining for sure, but not true. If you hang around bird watchers you are going to hear at least a few of them. If you hear any of these, jump right in and set the record straight.


1) You should not throw rice at the bride and groom at weddings because birds eat it and it swells up in their stomach and kills them. Sometimes the myth goes that it causes them to explode.


2) You should take down your bird feeders in the fall because they keep birds from migrating and these birds will freeze to death.


3) Hummingbirds migrate by riding on the back of geese.


4) If you feed a gull an Alka Seltzer tablet it will swallow the offering and when the lethal charge gets into the stomach and dissolves, the expanding gasses will cause the bird to explode.


5) Red dye in the hummingbird nectar is good because it increases the attractiveness of the feeder.


6) Red dye in the hummingbird nectar is bad because it causes a variety of diseases.


7) Purple martins regularly eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day.


8) Small birds are carried long distances by powerful storms.


9) Parent birds will abandon a nestling if it has been touched by humans.


10) Some birds mate for life.


11) Releasing white doves or pigeons at weddings and funerals is safe.


12) If you raise a wild bird such as a pigeon, blue jay, mockingbird, etc. it will bond (imprint with humans) and be tame for life, unable to make it in on their own in the wild.


13) Hummingbird nectar is bad for the hummingbirds.


14) Feeding bread to geese and ducks is a great family activity.


15) Pigeons carry diseases and even avian flu.


Bird-watching myths die hard, if at all. As a philosophical wit once explained, a lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets started. The myths discussed here, and others, will never be rooted out, but you can be aware, and provide a counterpoint to many of them. Be prepared for the results. No one likes a favorite myth debunked, and wars have been fought over myths. The trick is to be rational, friendly, and non-threatening.


How do you separate the myth from the reality? It is not always easy. There are extraordinary and improbable stories about birds that are entirely true. The trick is to develop a silent alarm system, a little buzzer than goes off when the story is too good, too weird, too improbable. Don't reject it out of hand, but investigate. Ask other bird watchers. Post a question on the Internet. Go to the library.


Do not, however, allow an appropriate sense of skepticism to interfere with the ability to discover wonderful things, to be moved and awed by the reality of birds. There is a lifetime of pleasure in the contemplation of birds, even without the myths.



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