Is Bread Good for Ducks and Geese? NO!
Saving old stale bread for a trip to the park to feed wild ducks and geese at the park has probably been a favorite pastime and childhood activity for hundreds of years. It’s an activity that creates and enhances an appreciation for wildlife, as anyone who feeds bread to the ducks cares about them and enjoys their company. However, feeding ducks bread does not benefit the ducks as it does the humans. In fact, bread is not good for the ducks, geese, or park environment.
4 reasons why bread is bad for ducks and geese:
Bread Causes Malnutrition
The most common result of feeding bread to ducks is metabolic bone disease and growth deformities. In human terms, metabolic bone disease is typically called Rickets. Bread does not have any nutrients that a duck or goose needs. Ducks that are well fed at city parks and eat a steady diet of bread do not have enough calcium for their bones to form properly. The bones are weak and break easily. The simple act of walking can be a hazardous activity for a city duck and lead to a broken bone if a bird is suffering from metabolic bone disease. Ducks that are born and raised at city parks with bread as their primary source of food will often have other physical abnormalities. This can include poor or lack of feather growth, misaligned beaks, beaks that grow in the wrong direction, and underdeveloped wings, legs, or organs.
A natural healthy diet for most ducks includes the small plants, algae, and invertebrates, such as brine shrimp, found in the water. Geese are typically herbivores eating a wide range of plant matter, such as grass. Stale old bread is not a naturally occurring food and it is far from healthy. Even fresh healthy bread in no way resembles their natural food.
Too Much Food Causes Overpopulation
With any population of wild animals, the more plentiful the food supply, the more the animals will breed. While bread may not be a healthy food source, it is a plentiful one year round. This means the ducks and geese will reproduce at a higher rate than if they had to rely only on natural food sources. More bread means more ducks and geese. More ducks and geese mean more feces in the water and throughout the park. More feces mean more parasites and bacteria that can thrive in that water and on land.
Overpopulation creates a health risk for the birds and humans. Feeding ducks bread is often cited as a major contributor in botulism outbreaks in city parks. Botulism is a bacteria toxin that thrives in warm waters with a too high of concentration of waterfowl feces. When a botulism outbreak hits, the birds become paralyzed starting the in legs, then the wings, and in the last stage the neck. Few of the waterfowl survive without immediate care by license wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Too Much Food Changes Migration Patterns
Most native wild ducks and geese do migrate. They migrate to warmer climates in the winter where they can find more food. If humans provide food year round, the birds will stay year round. But come December and January when the weather is too cold for even the most committed of duck lovers and their food source is gone. Waterfowl that stay year round also do not give the environment a break for the overpopulation of waterfowl.
The Birds’ Behavior Changes
The ducks and geese in city parks do not have the same wild natural behaviors as those that live away from humans. Feeding ducks and geese bread make them much more friendly and comfortable with humans, which can lead to some becoming very aggressive towards humans.
Friendly ducks that readily walk up to humans are also putting themselves in harm’s way, as not all park visitors have the same respect and care for the local ducks and geese. They also lose their ability to know how to find food on their own and don’t care to migrate.
Friendly geese are bold creatures. When they feel a park visitor, whether it be an adult or child, is holding out on them or invading their space, the human will gain a new respect and possible fear of geese.
The sick or injured park ducks and geese lucky enough to get professional medical care are taken to local licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers. When a duck comes into a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, the rehab technicians can immediately spot a city park duck. Some of the signs that a duck or goose resides at a city park are obvious, such as multiple broken bones, both healed and fresh, deformities such as beaks that grow in the wrong direction. Other signs are not as obvious to the average park observer, such as poor or dull feathers, inappropriate duck behaviors, and internal deformities.
Feeding bread to ducks for many is a cherished childhood memory, making it difficult for adults to want to stop the tradition. But this is one childhood activity may benefit the child, but harms the vary creatures you and your child have come to the park to enjoy and appreciate.
There are many other activities you can do at the park to enjoy the ducks that will teach you and kids an even greater appreciation and connection to city wildlife. Put old stale bread that you would not eat yourself in the trash and instead learn the merits of bird watching, wildlife photography, or painting wildlife and landscape scenes.
If the pond at the park is filled with domestic pet ducks, and the park allows feeding, there are many healthier choices. Instead of bread, you can feed frozen peas or lettuce. Bring a bag of fresh salad mix rather than bread for you and your child to feed to the ducks.