Recently I attended a wedding, and just as I was about to toss the rice that some thoughtful wedding planner had handed me, some city girl in a high heels and a devilish frown chastised me for even thinking about it.
My look of bewilderment must have queued my confusion, because without me asking for her explanation, she explained.
She told me that birds, “all types of birds,” she said, “can’t eat raw rice because they can't digest it, then it swells with moisture quickly and soon kills them."
“Same as Alka-Seltzer does seagulls,” quipped her slick-shoed hubby. I'd have bet my date that he'd never stepped a foot into a cold pond at dawn in his life.
I didn’t say anything at the moment, but my gut told me to climb to the top of the church’s steeple and ring the BullShooter bell loud and clear.I actively seek out rice fields when I wish to bag a limit of ducks, and I know doves also love it. And the only doves I've seen killed in a rice field were those that took on too many of my No. 8s. Nonetheless, I kept my mouth shut out of respect for the beautiful bride.
The Myth Raw rice eaten by birds will kill them.
The Facts I consulted a trained biologist currently employed by Ducks Unlimited for his opinion. Mike Checkett told me the following:
• "This myth pops up periodically, and it is unfounded. Many migrating ducks and geese depend on winter-flooded rice fields each year to build fat reserves for their return trek to northern nesting grounds. Farmers flooding these fields post-harvest provide a great service providing critical wintering habitats that replace historic wetlands that have been degraded or lost completely."
• "Yet rice does pose a unique danger at weddings. Not to birds, though; to people. Scattered on a hard surface (such as the steps of a church or a dancefloor) it puts anyone who walks across that surface at risk of taking a nasty spill."
• "Don't worry about the birds!Worry about the [crazy] in-laws!"
• "Some seeds do in fact cause what is called crop impaction. One in particular is soybeans. When ducks or geese eat large quantities of dry soybeans and then drink water the soybeans can swell. No explosions, but impacting the crop can cause birds to die."
• "So I wouldn't suggest throwing soybeans at a wedding either, both for the birds and the bride. They would hurt!"
The Biology-Based Answer While some seeds such as soybeans, can be harmful to some birds, rice thrown at weddings is only dangerous to rowdy humans who may slip on it and fall.