Using Birds as Edible Berry Indicators


(Modern – Birds are a good indicator of what wild berries humans can eat. True or False?

• True

• False

• Winter only

• Only near lakes

Answer: False. Here’s why…

When food becomes scarce, people will look for anything they can find to sustain themselves. From hunting wild game to foraging for berries, nuts, and edible plants, finding food becomes a high priority in any survival situation. Unfortunately, some common misconceptions about locating safe sources of nourishment can lead to an upset stomach — or worse.

One such misconception is that edible berries can be identified by birds feasting on them. After all, if the berries were poisonous, the birds wouldn’t be eating them, right?

Different Species, Different Tolerances

The truth is that birds aren’t a reliable indicator of whether or not berries are safe for human consumption. In fact, birds can eat a large number of berries that are not safe for humans.

A few examples of berries that birds can eat that are toxic to humans are:

  • Red elderberry
  • Deadly nightshade
  • Red baneberry
  • Pokeweed berries
  • Poison ivy berries

The best way to determine which berries are poisonous is to study. Multiple books exist on the topic, and often local classes teach which berries are edible and which are not (depending on the season and location).

In a true survival situation in which finding food could mean the difference between life and death, you cannot rely on birds to determine if berries are poisonous. There are other ways to find out if a berry is toxic to consume. To see how it’s done, check out our article on testing plants for poison.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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