With spring officially here, everyone is clamoring to get outside and enjoy the nice weather.
For many, heading down to a local pond to see the ducks and geese return north for the summer while feeding them bread is a common springtime ritual. However fun this may be for kids (including kids at heart) to interact with wild animals, conservationists are asking the public to refrain from doing this, as it can be harmful to the birds' health.
Sure, waterfowl love to eat bread when it’s offered to them, just as the average human will always eat pizza when it is available.
However, in both cases, just because you can eat a lot of something, doesn't mean you should. Bread has very few nutrients to offer ducks, and even though they might be overfed, they easily become undernourished. This weakens their immune systems, making them much more susceptible to disease.
Additionally, it can also lead to a deformity known as “angel wing” which causes misshapen wings and limits the bird’s ability to fly.
Leftover bread in the water breeds bacteria, threatening the immunocompromised ducks even more. Because the ducks are often offered more bread than they are capable of eating, the leftover bread floats on top of the water, where it eventually rots. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation warns that leftover bread leads to the development of avian botulism, Duck Virus Enteritis, Aspergillus, and more.
Those who feed ducks are typically doing it to be nice, but it could actually be killing them instead.
Wild waterfowl can find their own food and don't require human intervention at all. In fact, feeding them could detract from their natural hunting abilities, and leave them disadvantaged when they migrate and are no longer able to fend for themselves, according to conservationists. However, anyone who wishes to feed ducks on a farm is encouraged to offer more nutrient-dense snacks, including cut up fruits and vegetables or whole grains purchased from a feed store.
As children head out to parks this spring, remind them that the best way to show a duck it cares is by letting wild animals remain wild and not compromising the birds' health.
Angelwing image credit: Cengland0 CC by 3.0
Cover image via iStock / Studio-Annika