To bread or not to bread?

Go to any lake or pond and you’re bound to see a duck-lover tossing chunks of bread in the water. And while they might think they are doing the birds a favor, most experts agree that feeding bread to birds of any type is not healthy. There are six things to be aware of:

  1. Bread is full of empty calories. When you feed a bird bread, it’s filling up but taking in very little, if any nutrition. Just as for humans, white bread is the worst choice.
  2. Bread can actually harm birds. If not eaten right away, bread can mold and be fatal to waterfowl. According to The Spruce, moldy bread can cause aspergillosis, “a fatal lung infection that can decimate entire duck and waterfowl flocks.”
  3. Bread can adversely affect water quality. Tossing bread into lakes can cause algae blooms, attract rodents and other pests, and allow bacteria to grow. A carbohydrate-rich diet increases defecation rates, further polluting the environment.
  4. Bread has been cited as a possible or contributing cause of “angel wing.” Angel wing is a disease that results in wings growing outward, away from the body, so that the birds can’t fly or defend themselves from predators. While there is not much scientific study on this, most wildlife and waterfowl experts agree that a diet too high in protein or carbohydrates is the leading cause.
  5. Wild waterfowl that regularly receive handouts can become aggressive. Geese can bite especially hard and create quite a bruise on your shin when they are seeking your attention — and your handout.
  6. Inviting crowds of ducks and geese to gather in one area can cause habitat degradation and overpopulation. Both of these can lead to competition for resources, stress, and disease.

If you want to feed the ducks, bring healthy snacks like grapes (cut in half), cracked corn, any birdseed, grains, mealworms or veggie trimmings.

Finally, if you want to do something that will really help ducks, geese, and other water birds, take a plastic bag next time you go to the beach or lake or pond, and pick up litter. Join your local Audubon Society. Let your elected officials know that you support habitat protection and wildlife conservation. And enjoy those feathered creatures from afar!