With the weather finally turning colder many people feel compelled to ‘help out’ waterfowl by bringing them left over bread, chips and other such ‘treats’.
In larger quantities bread can actually be very harmful to waterfowl. Bread (particularly white bread) is high in carbohydrates, but devoid of any other useful nutrient required by ducks and geese.
Ducks and geese naturally have a varied diet including food sources such as aquatic plants, seeds, grasses and insects, but if large quantities of bread are available they will soon succumb and become obese junk food-junkies.
They will also start to suffer from the effects of malnourishment. In both ducks and geese a condition called Angel Wings can be caused by too much bread consumption. Angel Wings will usually render the sufferer flightless for the rest of its life and long-term malnourishment will cause death.
Often people will go to roughly the same area to feed bread to ducks and geese. This will attract large numbers of ducks and geese to these areas causing them to become over populated and in turn causing large deposit of feces both in the water and on land. These feces combined with left over bread (not consumed by the ducks) can cause excessive algae growth in the water as well as bad smell (particularly in the summer). Poor water quality will have an impact on the overall health of the waterfowl as well as the availability of their natural food sources.
Habituation and altered natural behaviors have been observed in some wild waterfowl as a result of habitually being fed by humans. Habituation of wildlife to humans is never a good thing and should never be encouraged.
Ducks and geese rarely need our assistance by way of food. During lengthy extreme cold spells it might be helpful to supplement dabbling ducks such as mallards and also maybe geese or swans with some extra food in the form of cracked corn or duck pellets, but that is not a common occurrence or necessity.
As an alternative to duck feeding I would highly recommend taking your children to a variety of areas where you might sight waterfowl. Pack a bird identification book and binoculars and try to identify the waterfowl you see. This is a great way to enjoy time with your children while learning something.
We are so lucky to have such an abundance of amazing waterfowl migrating through this area and if you look a little closer you will be amazed too.