Feeding the ducks is a great way to spend an afternoon with the kids, especially as the weather gets warmer. But experts warn that feeding ducks bread is not only bad for the birds’ health, but can damage entire ecosystems.
Around 6 million loves of bread were fed to ducks in England and Wales last year. But rather than being a tasty snack for our feathered friends the bread can actually damage the birds’ health. What’s more, all those uneaten crumbs can cause algal blooms, allowing bacteria to breed and attracting rats and other vermin on the water’s edge.
“Large amounts of bread and other human foodstuffs can be harmful to wildfowl, leading to potentially fatal or disabling health conditions,” said a spokesperson for the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. “Uneaten food can also cause changes to the chemical and bacteriological content of water, increasing the risk of avian disease.”
A spokeswoman for the RSPB added, “White bread in particular has no real nutritional value, so while birds may find it tasty, the danger is that they will fill up on it instead of other foods that could be more beneficial to them.
“There’s also a risk that ducks and other water fowl could get an illness known as angel wing, which is caused by not getting the right nutrients in their diet. The illness causes a deformity in birds’ wings that can hamper the way they fly or even stop them altogether, which could obviously be fatal.”
So if you want to feed the ducks what should you give them?
- Grapes: cut into quarters
- Lettuce: bagged salad or a whole lettuce ripped it into pieces
- Frozen peas and sweetcorn: defrosted
- Oats: rolled oats or instant porridge oats
- Seeds: birdseed or the seeds from the healthy aisle in the supermarket
- Rice: cooked or uncooked
For more information on how to feed the ducks safely, visit the Canal & River Trust.