Sunday, March 1, 2009

STOP 'feeding' the ducks!

I found this the other day: Posted January, 2009 by Darren Naish
I don't know about the rest of the world, but in Britain there is a very entrenched tradition of 'feeding the ducks'. People go on walks (usually at the weekend), and they take with them bagfuls of bread (sometimes even whole loaves). They then proceed to throw all the bread in the water. After a while the ducks and other birds at the pond get bored or full, and they stop eating it (see photo, taken over the weekend at Southampton Common's Cemetary Lake). Then more people come and throw in more bread. More people come, and they throw in more bread. Then more, and so on and on. On any given day, the most popular 'duck ponds' are polluted by, literally, kilos of bread.

Feeding ducks and geese has been a pastime for generations, but the more we learn about wild waterfowl, the more we realize how detrimental feeding them is.

Ducks and geese like bread, and will clamor for it much like a child will ask for candy. But bread has no nutritional value for waterfowl, it fills their stomachs up so that they do not eat the foods they need in order to remain healthy. Birds without proper nutrition will quickly succumb to disease and death.

Nutrition is not the only reason we shouldn't feed wild ducks and geese. Feeding ducks causes many problems, for the ducks and for the environment as well. Here are just a coupleof them:

Overcrowding: Where birds are fed, more birds will come, usually leading to a crowded situation. More birds mean more droppings. Excess feces cause water pollution, create an unsanitary environment for human recreation, and lead to the spread of disease in the bird population. As Mr. Naish points out, water quality degrades so much that the pond dies. The most popular 'duck ponds' are all entirely devoid of macroscopic life: no plants except for algae.

Disease: There are documented cases of waterfowl dying from enteritis, aspergillosis, and avian botulism, all due to excess food left floating in the water. These diseases spread quickly throughout populations due to the overcrowded situations that feeding waterfowl causes.

Here are a couple more links to information about 'feeding' ducks. Please, don't do it!


lkw said...

Oh, dear, you're exactly right, of course.

Our traditional 'duck pond' (at the Garden where I work) is a magnet for this sort of thing, and has been for decades.

Currently, there are a pair of domesticated white ducks, a 'popcorn' mallard pair, a Muscovy duck, and a grey goose to eat whatever (un-nutritious stuff) is tossed to them. They're hardly wild, but still not good to feed them.

We've tried to switch folks to buying cracked corn at the Gift Shop, which was mildly successful, but habits die hard.

The koi and turtles in the pond have also become accustomed to the handouts. Yikes!

Beverly said...

I don't understand why more places aren't posted... Perhaps they could put out those little machines (like gum-ball or nut machines), where folks can put in say fifty cents for a handful of NUTRITOUS food for the critters.

I’ve raised Koi and know bread would be a bad thing…almost as bad as a dead pond.

Education is the way, I’m sure. Perhaps a few of those ‘educational signs’ like you see at zoos or on wildlife trails; some way to get the kids to understand they are not doing the ducks any good. I realize it’s usually a kid-thing to do; but kids can read and understand signs and what helping the environment is all about.

At least given half a chance, they do.

Larry said...

It will be hard to stop people from feeding them.-I like the cracked corn idea.-I remember seeing a Birds of Prey show where they showed the skull of a hawk that had been fed people food.The bones of the skull were degenerated and weak compared to that of a hawk that ate natural prey.-Proper diet in birds is important.

Beverly said...

Hey Larry,

I’d guess you’re right…but a little education can’t help!

Thanks for the example of what a wrong diet will do. I imagine a diet of bread wouldn’t lead to the strongest egg-shells, either.

But in addition to ruining the bird’s health…the ponds are killed. They become so polluted that they can no longer support plant life (other than those long, slimy strings of algae), and soon other animals leave (except the rats) and we’ve killed another pond and reduced habitat for aquatic insects, amphibians, fish…