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

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.

10 thoughts on “Bird Myths: Gum on the ground kills birds”

  1. As some one who has raised birds for more than 40 years, I can verify that birds will not eat anything like gum or anything else that is not digestible. Personally considering the materials used to make gum, I don’t believe that most birds would even be able to eat gum. There are things that they can eat that is not good for them and can clog up their system. One of them is anything with butter or heavy cooking oil in it.

  2. Great article… thanks for helping to debunk another social media myth. That is a pretty moving picture – I can see why it’s going around so quickly. But birds eating gum? Umm…. no.

  3. 8 months on and this is still circulating on Facebook. When will people learn that re-posting this type of disinformation just makes them look stupid? Certainly people who dispose of their used gum irresponsibly should be condemned.

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  6. There are some interesting cut-off dates in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity but I’ll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as properly

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