“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ― Jane Goodall
During the summer we often see Facebook posts, articles and signs stating that you should not feed birds bread. However, people don’t pay a bit of attention. Everywhere we go there are people feeding ducks and geese. This is a very bad thing to do, in more ways than one.
When you were growing up you probably visited a local pond and fed bread to the ducks. Many of us did. It may have been the thing that got you into birding. Or maybe, you enjoyed getting outside with your parents or grandparents.
When we were very young, we also witnessed adults throwing out stale bread into their yard. The birds would gather it up as quickly as it was put out. This was fun for us, and watching the birds eat was a form of entertainment. But bread is not good for birds to eat.
It’s always the same excuse, “We did it when we were kids.” That doesn’t make it right. Bread can be deadly to birds and damage their environment.
Why is Bread Bad for Birds
Bread for birds is like junk food for humans. We love it, but it is bad for us. Bread doesn’t provide the nutritional content that a bird needs to survive. Instead, it swells in their stomach making them feel full. If bread is continually consumed, a bird will die from malnutrition. This is what often happens in parks. Person after person stops by feeding the ducks bread. The ducks no longer have to fend for themselves. In turn, they are not getting the vitamins, fat and protein that they need to survive and reproduce. Their energy level drops and they die.
Bread can also get lodged in a bird’s digestive system. When this happens, it will mold and the bird can end up with a yeast infection that can be fatal.
When birds don’t get the proper nutrition they need, they can become deformed. This can often be witnessed in urban waterfowl species. The lack of nutrition causes the bones and wings to grow improperly. In cases like this, the wings often grow outward instead of against the body. When this happens to a bird, they are unable to defend themselves or migrate.
Other Unintended Consequences
Bread isn’t only bad for birds, it can cause other unintended consequences.
It is bad for the water. Old bread that is not eaten will mold. This increases the bacteria in the water. This leads to the spread of disease and algae growth.
Throwing out bread also attracts rodents and pests that carry disease. Mice and rats love bread. When they know that bread is available, they keep coming back. Since there is an easy food source, they will move into the area. When they make the area their home, they multiply which leads to an infestation.
Waterfowl have also been known to become aggressive when they are fed regularly. Geese are notorious for chasing people and biting them.
When there is excess food there are animals fighting for it. This leads to overpopulation.
What Can They Eat?
When you go to a park, the best thing to do is leave the ducks and geese alone. They can fend for themselves. If you really want to feed them, take food that is high in nutritional content, such as:
Very small pieces of lettuce
Small veggie trimmings
Bird watching is fun and enjoyable for people of all ages. However, people who feed bread to birds are causing harm to the animals and the environment. Help protect these beautiful creatures by educating others about the dangers of feeding bread to birds.