Why is bread bad for ducks?

Experts from the UK’s major bird, wildfowl and waterways organisations advise against feeding bread to the ducks, so why is bread bad for ducks?

The case against feeding bread to ducks has three main parts:

Nutrition

Bread in small quantities isn’t poisonous to wildfowl, but offers little of the nutrition that they need to thrive. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) research showed that “a bread-heavy diet could make birds physically weaker”, which is a very real problem when an easy supply of bread becomes the major part of a bird’s diet.

As we can all only control what foods we offer, the WWT recommend that “it will often be safer for the birds to feed them other healthier foodstuffs” to avoid any problem of overfeeding with bread.

Pollution

This is as much down to overfeeding as it is the bread. Although an average UK human lunch is a sandwich of two slices of bread, our much smaller feathered friends can be thrown loaves and loaves of bread. Sometimes because people take so much bread with them, sometimes because lots of people visit the same spot with bread.

What the ducks don’t eat decays in the water, encouraging bacteria and algae which can poison ducks and other creatures making the water their home. Waste bread also attracts vermin such as rats.

Pollution fears were a major factor in the Canal & River Trust campaign against bread.

Behaviour

Linked to nutrition, experts worry that when overfed with an easy supply of bread, the ducks aren’t foraging for their natural and more nutritious foodstuffs. Plus in areas prone to overfeeding, large groups can form and quickly turn riotous. What may have been intended as an act of kindness, can make life much worse for the ducks.

“Yes, but, people have fed bread to ducks for years”

Wherever you find news stories asking people to stop feeding bread to the ducks, you find comments that it’s a load of nonsense, ducks happily eat it, they’ve eaten it for years and it’s harmless.

It’s true that people have long offered bread to ducks, but it is very unlikely that they were doing so at current levels.

Whereas previous generations may have taken a few scraps of stale bread to feed the ducks, today you’ll see people taking whole loaves of bread they’ve purchased specifically to feed the ducks. Our ancestors are unlikely to have been able to afford, or justify, throwing large amounts of food into the water for ducks!

Today’s problem isn’t bread alone, it’s the quantity of bread, backed by independent research on the dangers of bread heavy diets. There’s no conspiracy to sell alternatives, since bread isn’t free, it’s just better to invest in healthier alternatives.

So when going to feed the ducks, please consider these healthier foodstuffs and feed wild ducks responsibly.

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