can alka seltzer kill birds

Seagulls, or gulls depending on how much you dislike syllables, are considered a pest to many, a minor, avoidable annoyance to many more and the harbingers of death OH GOD LOOK AT THEIR COLD DEAD EYES! to my neighbour who doesnt get out much. Over the years, there has been a persistent and rather macabre urban myth circulating that gulls will explode if theyre fed Alka-Seltzer. Sadly, were here to inform you that this isnt true.Rebecca Hall on Filming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Share Subtitles

Though the myth has many subtle variations depending on where exactly youre reading it, it basically reads as follows. If you feed a hungry gull an Alka-Seltzer tablet or a similar product (gulls arent really that discerning when it comes to their choice of indigestion relief if were honest), upon hitting the birds stomach, the tablet will work its magic and cause the gull to violently explode into a cloud of feathers and intestinal confetti. Why the myth always seems to involve gulls instead of another bird is presumably due to seagulls propensity to eat damn near anything we humans throw them.Advertisement

Some variations on the myth try to add a little science to the mix (while simultaneously demonstrating why you should never trust any answer on Yahoo Answers and the like) by insisting that birds lack the ability to pass gas, which causes the deadly and explosive build-up in the unfortunate birds stomach that eventually causes it to paint the side-walk with its insides.Advertisement

Our guess is that this pseudo-scientific, kind-of believable explanation is why the myth continues to persist even to this day, despite a clear and apparent lack of “OMG, watch these seagulls explode” videos on YouTube. (There are a couple out there… but lets just say the makers of the videos perhaps should have hired out for better video effects if they wanted to be more believable, rather than clearly just using things like fireworks stuffed in dead birds or the like.)Advertisement

We will admit, though, the reasoning is rather convincing on the surface; we personally have never heard a bird pass gas and thats certainly not something usually covered in standard education systems.

Of course, once you spend a couple seconds thinking about it, even with just a basic knowledge of our feathered friends, you should easily be able to see the whole “Alka-Seltzer / exploding bird” thing doesnt make sense regardless of their ability to give a cloacal salute. (Hint: How do baby birds get food?)Advertisement

But dont take our word for it, as veterinarian Mike Murray explains, just because birds dont typically pass gas, it doesnt mean their bodies arent equipped to do so if necessary; if a bird ever needed to burp or fart, it could; its just that its diet doesnt typically require it to need to.

As for air coming out the other end from their derrieres, to quote renowned bird-nerd and Director of Conservation and Field Research at an aviary in Pittsburgh, Todd Katzner.

And, of course, if they can pass gas on the one side and regurgitate food and gasses on the other, Alka-Seltzer simply isnt going to hurt them.

Weirdly, this isnt the only myth involving exploding birds, for example, theres an oft repeated “fact” thrown around that you shouldnt throw rice at weddings, or at all, because birds eat it, which causes it to swell up in their stomachs, killing them. In some versions, the rice causes them to violently detonate, but we presume this only happens when Michael Bay manages to get his hands on the rice first.Advertisement

As with the Alka Seltzer myth, there is zero evidence to back up this claim and quite a bit of evidence to the contrary (besides just the simple fact that the birds can regurgitate, so even if it expanded too much, they could just do that if it became uncomfortable).

For instance, a 2002 study was done on this subject by biologist Jim Krupa of the University of Kentucky that was later published in a 2005 edition of the journal, The American Biology Teacher. Krupa was inspired to do a study on birds and rice after an almost even split occurred among his 600 students when he asked them if throwing rice at weddings was harmful to birds (45% thought the rice would kill the birds).Advertisement

They started by experimenting with the expansion of various grains that birds commonly ate in order to see what the birds systems could handle. What they found was that typical bird seed (the type that is now sometimes thrown at many weddings owing to the bird/rice myth) actually expands more than rice, at 40% expansion over rices 33%. However, one type of rice did show pretty remarkable expansion- instant rice. Brown instant rice expanded at 240% its original volume and white instant rice expanded at 270%.

Few people throw instant rice at weddings as its a lot more expensive than “regular” dried rice, but the question remained as to whether instant rice could burst birds bellies or other parts of their digestive system. Again, getting around the birds ability to regurgitate, conceptually it seems like instant rice wouldnt be a problem given how long it takes even dried instant rice to absorb moisture at around a birds typical body temperature (for reference, pigeons sit around 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.7-43.3 degrees Celsius).Advertisement

Given that it seemed to them safe enough to try from a conceptual standpoint, they decided to go ahead with testing instant rice out on real birds (Krupa owned 60 doves and pigeons), which he fed a diet of nothing but instant rice and water for 12 hours, as much as they wanted.

After 12 hours, the birds all lay dead at the bottom of their cages and Krupa was splashed with red paint by PETA after being fired for animal cruelty… Or… you know, the birds were all completely fine (which is what actually happened). Not only were they all not dead at the end of the day, but during the 12 hour period while they were munching on instant rice, the birds were closely monitored for any signs of distress. Not a single bird showed the slightest discomfort from eating the instant rice and, in fact, Krupa stated, “now theyre kind of addicted to it.”Advertisement

How the myth that rice will cause birds stomachs to explode started isnt known, but it has been around at least since the 1980s. In 1985, a state representative from Connecticut, Mae S. Schmidle, decided to do what seemingly all politicians do all the time- pass laws that are based on subjects they are woefully ignorant about while not bothering to do any real research to educate themselves on it.

Specifically, Schmidle attempted to pass a law forbidding people from being able to throw rice at weddings to “prevent injury and death of birds as a result of ingesting raw rice thrown at weddings”, called “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs”. The proposed penalty for breaking this law was to be a $50 fine.Advertisement

She also went on to state that she knew at least one other state that outlawed throwing rice at weddings for this reason. When asked which state, Schmidle replied that she didnt know. (seriously)Advertisement

Several ornithologists came forward and expressed their extreme skepticism over Schmidles claims, such as Roland C. Clement, president of the Connecticut Ornithological Association, who stated,

The myth got further traction thanks to Ann Landers, a.k.a. Esther Lederer. Her column on May 21, 1988 stated the following:

Landers later issued a retraction, citing a letter from Steve Sibley, a Cornell ornithologist who stated,

Just shy of a decade later, Landers once again printed the same myth, presumably forgetting all about her column and retraction from 1988.

Today a good deal of people continue to believe this rice myth thanks to a cocktail of anecdotal evidence, ignorance and the fact that most churches ban people from throwing rice at weddings. In regards to the latter, the reasoning behind this has less to do with protecting birds and more to do with the fact that churches dont want to spend hours after every wedding they hold cleaning their grounds of rice.Advertisement

They chose to test instant rice on actual birds (Krupa owned 60 doves and pigeons), feeding them nothing but instant rice and water for 12 hours, or as much as they wanted, since they felt it was safe enough to try conceptually.

Less than ten years later, Landers published the same myth once more, probably completely forgetting about her 1988 column and retraction.

The myth basically reads as follows, though there are many subtle variations depending on where you read it. When you feed an Alka-Seltzer tablet or any similar product to a hungry gull, it will work its magic and cause the bird to violently explode into a cloud of feathers and intestinal confetti. If you’re lucky, gulls aren’t that picky when it comes to their choice of indigestion relief. The fact that seagulls tend to eat almost anything that humans throw at them is probably why the myth always seems to involve gulls rather than another bird. Advertisement.

Although we have never personally heard of a bird passing gas, we will concede that the argument seems plausible at first glance. This is not a topic that is typically taught in traditional educational institutions.

In particular, Schmidle tried to enact “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs,” which would have made it illegal for anyone to throw rice at weddings in order to “prevent injury and death of birds as a result of ingesting raw rice thrown at weddings.” The proposed fine for violating this law was to be fifty dollars. Advertisement.

Need pigeon removal in your hometown? We service over 500 USA locations! Click here to hire us in your town and check prices – updated for year 2020. If you are experiencing the problems that come with dealing with pigeons around your property, then one of the things that you may come across online is the explanation about why pigeons can be killed if they eat certain foods. The theory is that these foods can cause problems in the digestive system of the birds, and they are physically unable to cope with this, which then kills the bird. While it may sound like a fantastical story, there are many people who have tried to use rice or alka seltzer to deal with their pigeon problem, and they then find out that it really is a fantastical story and isnt really effective. Can Rice Really Be Dangerous To Pigeons? The theory behind rice being one of the foods that is dangerous to pigeons is that dry rice will expand when it is exposed to water, and this is what it will receive if it is eaten by the pigeon. The rice is then said to expand within the birds stomach, and the stomach then is unable to cope with this expansion. The reality is that this doesnt happen, and the danger of rice to pigeons is largely overstated. The Myth Of Exploding Pigeons One of the most interesting parts of the myth that has grown up around these foods being ingested by pigeons is that they will actually cause the birds to explode, presumably in a shower of feathers as though they were in a cartoon. The birds stomach is much like a smaller version of the human stomach, and it can actually stretch a fair amount. Feeding Alka Seltzer To Pigeons The theory behind using alka seltzer to kill pigeons is much like the idea of using rice, with the theory being that the gas that is produced when the alka seltzer touches the fluid in the birds stomach, it produces a large amount of gas. Once again, the truth is that alka seltzer will also be ineffective at killing a pigeon. Why Gas Within The Body Will Not Kill A Pigeon On the whole, birds do not generally pass wind in the same way as people, but also they do not produce as much gas because they have a much lower proportion of bacteria within the gut. However, if needed birds can still pass wind or burp to release this gas, and the myth of this kind of problem killing a pigeon is exactly that – just a myth. Go back to the Bird Removal page.


Can Alka-Seltzer kill pigeons?

No, Alka-Seltzer won’t blow up your problem pigeons and give you and your pals a good laugh. They are just as able to process the chemicals in Alka-Seltzer as humans are–yes, birds can burp. Don’t be disappointed. Another urban myth is that rice can quickly take down the urban scavenger.

Does baking soda kill seagulls?

Does Baking Soda Kill Seagulls? Baking soda will not work as a food deterrent to kill seagulls. Not only is this untrue, but it is also cruel and illegal to contemplate such an act. Baking soda will simply cause a seagull to become sick and may cause some stomach discomfort, including the release of gas.

What happens if you give a seagull Panadol?

This is one of those Urban Myths that will not die. Nothing happens if you feed seagulls with paracetamol. They regurgitate food for their young so this indicates that gas build up (caused by consuming paracetamol for example), would also be brought up.

Can seagulls eat french fries?

Foods like breads, crackers and french fries are com- monly offered to gulls, but these items are nutritionally inferior and poor substitutes for natural foods. Gulls with a highly artificial diet may suffer long-term health problems.