Why You Shouldn’t Feed the Ducks — And What to Do Instead

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on March 2, 2015.

On a beautiful day, what’s more pleasant than heading down to the lake with family or friends, bringing a picnic and packing some bread or crackers for the horde of waterfowl that will quickly gather around you when they realize you have snacks? As it turns out, it’s not very pleasant for the birds at all.

That’s because the snack foods we tend to take to the pond can make ducks and geese sick and cause nutrient deficiencies, among many other health problems. If you do want to help out local waterfowl, stop feeding them and encourage others to do the same.

One of the primary issues with feeding ducks is that bread, crackers, popcorn and the like are basically junk food, which is a particular problem for young animals who are developing rapidly. These foods are low in the protein they need to grow strong and healthy, and they lack the nutritional variety that waterfowl have evolved to eat.

Ducks and geese are used to eating an assortment of invertebrates and plants. If they’re fed a diet consisting largely of processed food, they don’t get the nutrients they need, making them more vulnerable to diseases and conditions like angel wing — a wing deformation that leaves birds flightless and powerless to defend themselves.

And when ducks and geese are fed by humans, they tend to congregate instead of foraging. That means they won’t develop strong muscles from flying, and they may gather in unhealthy areas. This congregating behavior also means that they tend to eat in the same place they defecate, which can cause disease outbreaks. As if that wasn’t bad enough, providing waterfowl with so much food leads to overpopulation, stress, habitat degradation and attacks within the flock as birds compete for resources.

With growing populations can come another problem: A large flock starts to be viewed with hostility by humans living in the area. People might get tired of stepping in geese and duck poop, or they may become irritated by the noise. In some cases, neighboring property owners and residents may grow frustrated with the flock and demand action, which often results in cruel culls. If only a few birds live in a city park seasonally, they feel more like precious jewels in the landscape for everyone to enjoy, instead of like an irritating public nuisance.

Want to help waterfowl in your community? You can still head down to the lake to enjoy the sight of birds swimming, flying and foraging around. In fact, it’s highly encouraged, especially if you have young children who should learn about the value and beauty of the natural world.

Instead of feeding the waterfowl, make sure to remind others not to feed them, and consider participating in bird advocacy. For example, the Audubon Society runs an annual census drawing upon citizen scientists across the country to learn more about regional bird populations. You can also consider signing petitions  and writing letters to elected officials to protect natural habitats.

Support proposals to create dedicated wildlife refuges so ducks, geese and other feathered friends always have someplace to go.

Photo Credit: Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

176 comments

Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

tks

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Georgina Elizab M
Georgina Elizab M2 months ago

tyfs

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Laura K
Laura K2 months ago

tyfs

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Leo C
Leo C2 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago

Thanks.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Ellen J
E Away J2 months ago

Spam flagged. Bad enough we get spam but to get the same ad twice? Oy!

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Ellen J
E Away J2 months ago

Thanks for the info.

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek2 months ago

Interesting :-)

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