Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of feeding ducks in the park or the local pond? Unfortunately this practice is unhealthy for the ducks as well as for people. Feeding wild ducks leads to:
- Poor nutrition – Birds eating human foods will suffer from malnutrition. They will fill up on bread and crackers instead of eating the nutritious food they need. They will suffer from heart disease, liver problems and other health issues. Ducklings will not learn to forage for food and will be unable to survive without human help.
- Spread of disease – Food which is not eaten by the ducks will be left to rot. Ducks will defecate in the place where they eat, further adding to the unhygienic nature of the area. Young children can easily be infected by disease. Rats, mice and insects will also be attracted to the food, causing more spread of disease.
- Unnatural behavior – The natural behavior of wild ducks is to spend most of their time in the water and steer clear of humans. Ducks which are used to being fed will congregate on the shore instead, waiting for food. Sometimes, they will engage in dangerous behavior, such as crossing a busy road to get to a food source.
- Overcrowding – Ducks will gather in large numbers at a location where food is readily available, becoming a nuisance to people who live nearby. Too many ducks in one area will also lead to territorial aggression.
- Pollution – Rotting bread in the water will cause algae growth which will clog the water, cause pollution and eradicate fish and other wildlife that live in or near the water.
What should you do instead?
If you enjoy interacting with ducks and feel that you must feed them, give them nutritious food instead. You can purchase commercial duck feed, or give them grapes cut in half, cracked corn, barley, oats, birdseed or other grains. They will also thrive on cheerios, a thawed bag of frozen peas or corn, or kale, romaine or other leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce).
If you are feeding ducks as a way to avoid waste, a better solution would be to add your bread to a compost pile, or use stale bread in recipes such as croutons, bread pudding and stuffing.
Besides abstaining from feeding the ducks yourself, you can also inform others of the dangers of feeding them. Talk to city officials about posting signs near ponds and lakes which explain why the ducks shouldn’t be fed. Teach your children that respecting animals sometimes means not feeding them.