According to parts of the internet, the earth is flat, Elvis is still alive and actually it’s okay to feed ducks with bread.
Yes, we’ve seen that poster too – the one that says that you should feed bread to ducks, because although it’s not the healthiest, it’s better than nothing.
It has become an instant battle flag for the people who have always regarded to advice to not feed bread to ducks as being baloney invented by do-gooders and those who just want to sell you an alternative.
Sadly, there will always be people like that – the same kind of people who claim they can drink much more than the legal drink drive limits and still be safe to drive, or who claim the health warnings on cigarettes are nonsense because their great uncle smoked 40 a day and lived until he was 95.
But if you’ve stopped feeding bread ducks and are now wondering who is right, here are the facts in brief from the bird and wildfowl professionals:
- If you alone made a one-off visit to some ducks and gave them a small amount of bread, it wouldn’t do them lasting harm – but it isn’t doing them any good either. See the RSPB advice on bread for birds >
- The “problem” with bread is that it isn’t very nutritious, so if a duck eats lots of bread, it feels full and less inclined to eat more nutritious foods. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust research showed that “a bread-heavy diet could make birds physically weaker”. See the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s research >
So, a very small amount of bread isn’t a problem – but is only doing “no harm” rather than “doing something good” – and lots of bread and lots of people offering bread actually is a problem.
Since you can’t control what everyone else might be offering the ducks, the Wildfowl and Wetlands trust offer this advice:
“WWT recommends that ducks, swans and geese be fed with vegetables, grain or specialist food where possible. That way, you can be as sure as possible that you are helping the birds rather than inadvertently causing any problems for them. “
There are better alternatives to bread at every price point – so there is no rational reason we can see at all to feed ducks with bread.
We should however add that in our opinion, too much of a good thing can also be bad. Feeding wild ducks responsibly isn’t just about offering the right kind of food, it’s about not overfeeding them too.
So whether you choose peas or porridge oats, garden bird seed or specialist duck food, don’t shovel it into the water. Offer them a little so you get to enjoy interacting with them – and then move along to find some more ducks. That way, you’re leaving them to get on with their own natural feeding habits too and there is much less danger of you polluting the water with food they can’t or don’t eat.