Let’s Make a Toast to Stop Feeding Bread to Birds

Cedar waxwing (Photo by Brendan Toews)

Cedar waxwing (Photo by Brendan Toews)

What probably began with one personís indecision with what to do with leftover bread has become an international family loved activity.

The problem with tossing birds bread in the park? Birds donít eat bread naturally. Most common bird species include seed-eaters such as sparrows and finches, fruit/nectar-eaters such as hummingbirds and waxwings, and insect-eaters such as warblers and wrens.

Ducks and other waterfowl are less picky when it comes to food items; they like to munch on seeds, aquatic vegetation, aquatic larvae and sometimes fish. Therefore, unless youíre bringing 14-grained-muesli-whole-wheat-brown bread with no sugar-or-preservatives-added, gluten-free and sulfites-free, then bread is really, really not a natural source of food for birds.

But what happens when they do eat the bread? Well, nothing good. Imagine only getting to chew and swallow pieces of gum all day. The gumís sugar may keep your hunger at bay but your energy levels might drop since there are no other nutritional values. And certainly swallowing wads of gum wonít make your digestive tract happy.

Now think of bread as chewing gum for birds. Since people tend to throw slices of bread onto ponds and lakes, these pieces are way too large for most birds, but they go for it anyways. As a result, the large pieces will get lodged in their crops, the bird organ for storing food located right after their throat. The food will mold and cause yeast infections that are often fatal.

As for the bread pieces that do pass through to the stomach, they fill up the bird with none of the nutrients it vitally needs to survive. The lack of specific vitamins and proteins cause deformities and interrupts normal growth and repair. For example, angel wing is becoming way too common in urban waterfowl species.

Duck with Angel Wing disease (Photo by Cengland0, Wikimedia Commons)

Duck with Angel Wing disease (Photo by Cengland0, Wikimedia Commons)

Angel wing is directly caused by malnutrition. The bones and joints of the wings do not grow properly. Instead of lying flat against the body, the wings grow outwards. Birds can no longer fly. They can no longer migrate to a warmer spot when winter arrives. They can no longer defend themselves from predators or even vehicles on the road.

So what can we feed them?

Bird seed mixture (Photo by Algont/Wikimedia Commons)

Bird seed mixture (Photo by Algont/Wikimedia Commons)

Lettuce, chopped up fruit, berries, cracked corn and raw seeds are all easy to pack and carry along. As for leftovers, what about the cauliflower greens that donít get used up in your stir fry? or the romaine cores that are a wee tad too bitter? Or all those carrot peels?

All of the above contain much more nutritional value for birds than bread ever will. This way you can still feel happy about providing good foods for birds. Then, by passing on the word to others, you can contribute to help all birds species stay healthy! Now thatís definitely something to toast to!

This post originally appeared on†Land Lines†and was written by Tina-Louise Rossit, guest blogger for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Main photo: Mallards – male on the left and female on the right. (Photo by Pia Kaukoranta/NCC staff)


John B
John B1 years ago

Thanks for sharing the info.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

thank you for the info

Frank R.
Past Member 2 years ago

Yep let them too have a delicious food like us

Leo Custer
Leo Custer2 years ago

thank you for the info!

Nancy G.
Nancy B2 years ago

I never feed bread too birds , I keep a mix of seeds and keep a bag in car when I visit a local pond .

Sally H.
Sally H2 years ago

I feed my sparrows seed every day and the waxeyes get dripping and sugar water. No need for bread.

Mark muc
Mark p.muc2 years ago

...love this animals :)

Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

Important Information noted 7/25/16