What better way to spend some time at a local park or pond than feeding the ducks some old bread, right? It’s a tradition that goes back generations.
Turns out it’s bad for the ducks. Experts say there are several reasons people should not feed bread to ducks or geese.
Chief among those reasons is that ducks are like us: They love to eat things that taste great but have no nutritional value. They will fill up on bread provided to them and not eat other, healthier things, which can lead to a multitude of health issues. Popular Science likened it to conditioning ducks to live on “a never-ending candy buffet.”
Other reasons not to feed bread to ducks and geese, according to National Geographic:
- Reliance on human-supplied junk food keeps ducklings from learning how to forage healthy food for themselves.
- A high-carbohydrate, high-protein diet is associated with a wing deformity known as “angel wing” or “airplane wing,” which causes the last joint on the wing to become deformed and usually prevents the bird from flying.
- Rotting bread can grow mold that makes waterfowl sick, contribute to the growth of algae (which negatively affects natural food sources), and attract rats and other vermin that spread disease to birds and humans.
- Where an easy food source is abundant, ducks and other waterfowl will lay more eggs and the pond or lake will quickly become overcrowded. This makes it more difficult for the ducks to find healthier food sources. Overcrowding also often allows predators to thrive, disrupting bird populations.
- Diseases become more likely. A carb-rich diet leads to more defecation, and bird feces often harbors bacteria that’s responsible for numerous diseases, including avian botulism. Also, moldy bread can cause aspergillosis, a fatal lung infection that can ravage entire duck and waterfowl flocks.
So what should you feed ducks? They are omnivores, so ducks regularly consume a variety of foods, including plants, animals, algae, and fungi. Healthy alternatives to bread include lettuce and cabbage, grapes, corn kernels, peas, nuts, beans, dry pet food, and bananas, among many other things.
The vision of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board is an environment in which Californians have access to high-quality veterinary care for all animals. More information is available at www.vmb.ca.gov.