The Perils Of Feeding Bread To Ducks

David Pottinger writes:

The topic of the perils of feeding bread to ducks has recently been in the news and we’d like to publicise this important subject a bit more widely.

From the BBC Magazine Monitor blog:

It’s a seemingly innocent pastime. But experts warn that feeding ducks bread is not just bad for the bird’s health – it can damage entire ecosystems, says Justin Parkinson.

Throwing crumbs of stale bread in a pond or river is a ritual of family days out dating back to at least the 19th Century. Ducks vie with geese, swans, moorhens, sometimes gulls, for their fill.

It’s long been recognised that a bread-rich diet – particularly processed white bread – can cause wildfowl to become ill and, in some cases, deformed. Now conservationists are warning that undigested bread sinking and rotting can create wider havoc.

The article then goes on to describe these problems in more detail and offers this advice:

But not everyone will want to give up entirely an activity that is popular with children – particularly when it is duckling season.

To prevent excessive build-ups of bread in one area or stretch of water, Richard Bennett (an environment manager with the Canal and River Trust) recommends dropping only part of the intended feed at one point, then walking 50 metres along the bank or towpath before doing so again. This ensures more than one wildfowl family gets a meal and reduces unnecessary concentrations of algae, bacteria and bird waste.

“Feeding birds is something that people have done for generations and we definitely don’t want to discourage that,” says Bennett. “But we have to think about how we do it.”

And from The Guardian, on the same topic, and quoting Peter Birch, national environment manager for the Canal and River Trust:

Please come and feed the ducks but do it sensibly so your children and future generations can enjoy it too. The charity is asking the public to make a few simple changes. Bread’s not great for a duck’s health as it’s nothing like their natural diet so don’t overfeed them with large quantities of it.

Try to vary what you give them and swap it for healthier more natural treats like oats, corn, or defrosted frozen peas. And exercise portion control,” he said.

This article also gives a list of foodstuffs safe to give to ducks:

Sfd (Safe for ducks)
Cracked corn
Wheat, barley or similar grains
Rice (cooked or uncooked)
Birdseed (any type or mix)
Grapes (cut in half)
Frozen peas or corn (defrosted, no need to cook)
Chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes
Chopped vegetable trimmings or peels
Duck pellets

Nsfd (Not safe for ducks)
Crackers and biscuits
Sugary food – sweets, chocolate

So, the next time you visit Fleet Pond to feed the ducks and other birds, we’d be grateful if you could bear the above information in mind, they’ll appreciate you for it!

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