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Bird Myths: Gum on the ground kills birds

Even though the Internet is an amazing resource with answers to nearly any question you could ever ask, it’s still a medium that is susceptible to the spread of misinformation, especially on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The image to the right of a bird next to its deceased mate has been making the rounds on Facebook with an encouragement for people to share it. It states that chewing gum on the ground is appealing to birds because it looks like bread, but ingesting it causes the birds to die.

Let’s tackle this quickly spreading image.

First, any birder could tell you the birds in the image are barn swallows—which are insectivores—so they wouldn’t try to eat gum in the first place. Second, the image is actually from a series of touching pictures that spread around the Internet a couple of years ago displaying a swallow grieving over its mate.

As for the claim on the image, while it’s hard to outright dismiss anything as impossible, experts have suggested chewing gum itself would not kill a bird, according to Snopes.com.

Still, people never definitively say a small bird eating gum will not affect it. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely birds will try to eat gum because they can easily detect when things are not edible. After a peck, they probably wouldn’t try to eat any more of it.

While birds are rarely killed by gum, it’s always important to throw away gum (and any other litter) because trash has negative effects on the environment, which ultimately affects birds.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

6 Comments

  1. Really a new info to my knowledge. I never do it here after.

  2. Hey Don Chase!
    I am an animal-lover and i want to share this:
    An acquaintance threw away a nearly fresh cherry bubblegum into the sea and a seagull game and picked it up. After a few chews it swallowed it. It was horrible to see the bird having problems afterwards. It drank a lot, kept swallowing and made really uncommon noises as if he was in trouble. My heart is breaking when i imagine this little animal could now die because of his.
    But yes, the seagull at the chewing gum – because it tasted like cherry.

  3. […] However, he also noted that other birds, including swallows, went into hibernation. The theory was that birds went into a torpid state and hid in trees and mud. At the time, he said many birds went into hibernation, including kites, doves, and storks, but over the years, the hibernation theory stuck with the swallows like gum. […]

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