Written By: Sarah Girton
After a long hiatus from the blog while we moved locations…we are back! If you haven’t been to the new location yet, be sure to stop by. We have lots more space, tons of new product offerings, and we are now in the process of getting the local birds hooked on our seed!
Today we wanted to address a few common myths surrounding birds. We’ve been getting asked several of these a lot recently (hint — not the one about birds not being real) so we felt it was a good excuse to write a blog post addressing these questions.
Myth #1: “If You Touch a Baby Bird, the Parents will Reject it.”
This myth no doubt got its start with good intentions in mind, but any misinformation can still pose a risk to wildlife. The bottom line is that birds do not have a well-developed sense of smell, and even if they did, it would not be enough to cause the parents to abandon their young. Additionally, you should avoid handling birds unless they are seriously injured and need professional care. In that case, call a local wildlife rehabilitator and they will give you advice.
Myth #2: “Red Dye in Hummingbird Nectar is Safe.”
Why it is even legal to sell hummingbird nectar with red dye in it is a mystery to me. Red #40 is derived from petroleum, and has been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer in humans, as well as ADHD in children. The dye will even show up in a hummingbird’s droppings, suggesting an inability for the dye to be metabolized. If it’s not safe for humans, it’s not safe for birds!
Myth #3: “Crows and Ravens are Bad Omens.”
This myth does not hold as much sway as it used to, but it is still worth addressing because of the negativity some people associate with these beautiful and intelligent animals. Crows and ravens have no reason or desire to be so mystically involved in a person’s fate; they are simply living their lives. They are not disgusting, nor cruel, nor obsessed with death. Most likely they are just hanging around with parents, siblings, and friends, doing general bird things.
Myth #4: “Birds Sing Because they are Happy.”
A bird’s song can bring joy to just about anyone. In fact it’s scientifically proven to elevate your mood. But to males of the same species, it’s a warning. “Stay out of my territory, or else!” The complexity and uniqueness of the song ensures that sexual competitors stay away from any females in the vicinity. Singing is one of the best ways that a bird can ensure their genes will be passed on.
Myth #5 “Feeding Hummingbirds Keeps them from Migrating”
This is another myth that probably has well-meaning intentions…But there are a lot of factors involved in migration. As the seasons change, the sun’s angle changes, affecting weather, natural food sources, and triggering the bird’s own powerful instinct to migrate. Keeping your hummer feeders up through at least the end of October ensures that any traveling hummingbirds can make a pit stop to refuel as they make their way south.
Myth #6: “Bird Brains?”
‘Bird Brain’ is a common insult meant to attack a person’s intelligence. Birds are actually among the most intelligent creatures on the planet. They are proven to be problem-solvers capable of excellent memory retention and self-awareness. Many birds can even recognizes human faces. Turn the tables on this phrase; The next time someone does something smart, call them a Bird Brain as a compliment!
Myth #7: “Birds Can Eat Bread.”
One of the most common foods that park-goers like feed the local birds is bread. Ducks, pigeons, and sparrows will readily gobble it up, happy for the calories. But since birds are not capable of assessing the nutrition info of their food, it is up to us to feed responsibly. While it does provide calories, the biggest problem with bread is its lack of nutritional value. There is condition in birds that is associated with a diet high in carbs called Angel Wing, where the flight feathers grow faster than normal, putting extra strain on the wing joints. A bird with this condition can not fly, and thus can not escape predators, or migrate. Some better alternatives for feeding birds at the park are cracked corn, frozen peas, and oats, but check with local regulations about feeding at a particular location.
Myth #8: “Birds Aren’t Real!”
This one is less of an actual myth and more of a modern satirical commentary aimed at conspiracy theorists. However, it has taken off as legitimate for some people. There are Facebook groups, and you can even buy merch. The idea is that birds are government drones used to spy on the public. According to the theory, birds will sit on power lines to recharge, and even poop on your car in order to track you. Thankfully, the creator of the conspiracy theory, Peter McIndoe, has admitted that he made it all up and that he doesn’t actually believe it. Phew!
Were you ever taught something about birds that turned out to be false? What are some other myths about birds that you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments!