Though it can be tempting to feed your local water fowl day-old bread, it is in fact very unhealthy for geese and ducks to consume these human foods. Many parks now feature signs reminding visitors to leave the sandwich bread at home and instead support wildlife in other ways.
Feeding water fowl human foods like bread, crackers, popcorn, chips and dinner rolls can cause a number of direct health problems for these feathered friends and also contribute to the creation of an unhealthy habitat. When geese and ducks eat human junk foods they are eating foods lacking in protein and nutrients essential to a balanced diet. When water fowl overeat on junk food they can develop serious conditions like metabolic bone disease and angel wing disorder. Both of these conditions result in malformations that can endanger the lives of infected water fowl. Additionally, rotting bread can pollute pond/lake water and cause troubling blooms of algae. A high volume of artificial feeding at a particular area can also increase water fowl populations beyond the “carrying capacity” of the lake or pond and contribute to overcrowding, spread of disease and habitat degradation.
The best thing to do to help out our feathered friends is to stop feeding them, allowing them to naturally forage for food. However, if you would like to provide an occasional treat for your local gaggle there are some healthier snack options. A sign in Sunset Hills’ Watson Trail Park (pictured below) encourages visitors to feed geese and ducks birdseed, peas, chopped lettuce, cut seedless grapes and cooked rice. Nutritious insects like mealworms or freeze-dried crickets purchased from a pet food store can also be a special healthy treat for feathered friends. Other activities to help out wildlife instead of feeding them include collecting any trash you see in parks and picking up stray fishing hooks, lines, and sinkers along ponds and lakes, as recommended by The Wildlife Center.
For an in-depth look at that negative impacts of feeding birds, check out “The Problem with Feeding Ducks” from The Wildlife Center.