Anecdotes from the Archive

Curious Photos from the Archive: A Hungry Little Bird Gets Stuck in a Breakfast Roll


Since today is Friday the 13th, I’d like to share with you an unlucky situation I came across in the Scientific American archive. When I first saw this photograph from the December 15, 1917, issue, I had a very hard time figuring out what I was looking at.

Bird stuck in bread

First, I thought it was a petrified human heart or maybe a rotten red pepper. Then, I finally recognized the head of a bird sticking out of whatever that rock-like mound was supposed to be. Of course, I could have just read the caption, “A sparrow stuck in a breakfast roll” and saved myself some guesswork.

The accompanying article states that birds tend to be voracious eaters, often taking in twice their body weight in order to fuel their very high energy levels. Rarely do you see scraps of bread on the ground that aren’t pecked at by a few birds, but this sparrow seemed to have more than pecking in mind.

“It will be observed that this sparrow has eaten his way clear through a large breakfast roll, and out on the other side, only to find at the last moment, when his voracious bill has demolished everything within reach, that he is stuck in a straightjacket of his own making.” The article suggests that if one were to take a moral stance, this would appear to be a “just reward of gluttony.” I believe it was just an honest mistake. If I were presented with a chocolate cake larger than myself, I can’t deny the possibility that I would end up trapped inside after a short period of time.

The lesson to take away from this bird’s accident: If you want to leave scraps for birds, try and make them smaller than the actual birds that may feed on them. If you do see a bird trapped in bread, don’t scold him by saying, “I told you all those carbs were going right to your hips.” Instead, help the little guy out so he can immediately began working off those surplus calories.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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