Why feeding bread to ducks could end up doing more harm than good
Feeding the ducks is one of our most treasured family traditions, and small children taking delight in throwing bread to these birds on a park pond is an iconic sight of summer.
However, this simple act has come under scrutiny in recent years, as feeding wild ducks and swans bread, especially white, has been linked to a raft of issues. It can lead to health problems such as obesity, malnutrition, digestive conditions and possibly a crippling deformity called ‘angel wing’. What’s more, leftover bread can harm water quality and spread disease.
One of the roots of the problem is that waterfowl such as mallards naturally have a pretty diverse diet, foraging for plants, seeds, insects, worms and snails. If they’re filling up on calorie-dense bread, they won’t forage as much for the nutritious foods they need. Plus, if adult birds get used to being fed it can change their behaviour and stop them teaching their young to forage.
So what’s the solution? First off there are lots of other types of food that do fit the bill (so to speak!), from specialist duck and swan food to seeds, corn and peas. And, according to the RSPB, there’s no need to stop feeding bread entirely but if you do, they have the following advice: “Only put out an amount of bread birds will eat in a day; food left on the ground overnight can attract rats; soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread; and brown bread is better than white.”
With a few changes, you can continue enjoying the simple pleasure of feeding the ducks while ensuring it’s as good for them as it is for you!
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