Yes, we all love feeding ducks with our children and grandchildren but this age old tradition is not actually doing the duck population any good.
The reality is that bread and similar products such as crackers, crisps and cakes although a good source of carbohydrates, actually offer ducks, waterfowl and other birds very little nutritional value, and is no more than junk food for the poor duck. In fact too much bread can lead to malnutrition and excessive weight gain, along with many other problems.
Of course a very small amount of bread would not be harmful to ducks and birds, but in many situations you have local residents and visitors feeding ducks with their bit of bread each day, the ducks sadly end up with a very unhealthy carbohydrate rich duck diet, which can cause lots of problems down the road.
Stop feeding ducks bread!
There are a few reasons why you should not feed ducks bread, but one major issue is that ducks put on too much weight, which makes it much harder for them to fly and that makes them vulnerable to predators.
Here are some other problems that can arise when feeding ducks bread:
- Duckling Malnutrition: It’s vital that ducklings receive enough nutritious food to aid their development and growth, and bread will not provide adequate nutrition. The other problem is that ducklings will not learn to naturally forage for their food if there is an easy source of food from human handouts.
- Overcrowding: Ducks will tend to lay more eggs when there is an abundant food source, and this will lead to overcrowding on a pond. This leads to territorial aggression, because it becomes more difficult for the ducks to find natural and healthier food sources.
- Natural behaviour can be lost: Unfortunately ducks especially lose their natural fear of humans when they become accustomed to handouts, and this can lead to aggressive tendencies in order to get more food. This loss of fear also causes other dangers such as crossing busy roads to reach human sources of food, and there is evidence that regular handouts can interfere with their natural migration instincts, mainly because they know food will be readily available all year.
- Disease: When you feed ducks bread it can also increase the spread of diseases. Mouldy bread can cause aspergillosis, which is a fatal lung infection that can quickly wipe out entire duck and wildfowl flocks, and a carbohydrate-rich diet produces greater defecation. Duck and waterfowl faeces can easily harbour bacteria which are responsible for diseases such as avian botulism.
- Can attraction pests: Any leftover food after you feed ducks will attract other pests like rats, mice and insects, that can be a danger to local residents, as these pests can harbour additional diseases that can be a danger to humans.
- Water Pollution: When you feed ducks bread it also has a major impact on water quality. Any soggy uneaten bread is not only unsightly, the rotting bread can also generate noxious odours, lead to algae growth, that can quite simply clog natural waterways. In extreme cases this kind of pollution can lead to fish and other life in the vicinity dying off.
Here are some alternative ideas when feeding ducks
There is no doubt that wild ducks and waterfowl will live healthier, longer lives when they rely on natural food sources. There is plenty of natural food sources around such as aquatic plants, seeds, grasses and insects which will in the long run be much better than taking handouts from well-meaning humans.
- Floating duck food pellets are a great alternative, and at Hanley Swan village shop Roz provides bags of duck food for residents and visitors to purchase, and you can buy duck and swan pellets online, or local pet store. The main benefit of these pellets when feeding ducks, is that it floats on the water so you don’t get left over food on the ground, which can attract pests.
- Grapes cut in half
- Cracked corn, barley, oats, birdseed or other grains are a good alternative, however be mindful that when feeding ducks this option, you should try to ensure all the feed is consumed and not left around as this can attract pests like rats and mice.
- Frozen peas that have been defrosted
Don’t Waste Bread
Feeding ducks for many people is a way to interact with wildlife, but it can also end up just being a handy way to get rid of old, stale or moldy bread. So instead of running down to the pond and disposing of your bread there, here some other alternatives;
- Add your bread to a compost pile to create natural fertilizer and mulch
- Make a bread pudding or homemade dressing and stuffing!
- Toast your stale bread and make homemade croutons or garlic toast
To close this article on bread, maybe the best solution is to avoid having stale bread around, which will eliminate the temptation to feed ducks bread in the first place. Remember, bread can be easily frozen so you can simply defrost what you need, or better still, toast your bread from frozen. So think about what you feed ducks locally, and use your loaf!