Experts from the UK’s major bird, wildfowl and waterways organisations say that bread is bad for ducks and shouldn’t be fed to them. So what’s the problem with bread?
The case against feeding bread to ducks has three main parts:
Bread, particularly white bread, doesn’t provide the balanced nutrition that ducks need to thrive. The concern is that ducks feeling full of an easy supply of bread won’t then be eating their naturally nutritious diet. Malnourished ducks could be more susceptible to disease and predators, may be less likely to breed successfully and their young could develop deformities.
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, who apparently have particularly unpleasant urine.
Linked to nutrition, the 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.
In some parts of North America any kind of wild duck feeding is prohibited, due to these fears and that of it impacting on natural migration patterns. However, in the UK, the major bird, wildfowl and waterways organisations don’t discourage feeding, just ask that we not feed unhealthy foods (bread, chips, crisps, confectionery) and don’t overfeed. Here are some tips for feeding wild ducks responsibly >
“Yes, but, we’ve done it for years and it did no harm”
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.
Well, it is perhaps true that if you gave a single duck a single morsel of white bread, it isn’t going to instantly keel over and die.
The problem is that even if you personally don’t give them lots of bread, other people may be along throughout the day also feeding bread. It’s the build up of bread taking over from more nutritious foods that’s the big problem – and you can only control what you offer.
So please, make sure it’s not bread and consider these alternatives instead >