Ducks eat bread. WRONG.

08 May 2018

Interview with

Izzie Clarke

Think it's a good idea to feed ducks bread? Think again. Izzie Clarke has this week’s mythconception...

Izzie - While the weather might seem in two minds about it, spring has officially sprung and brought with it the little quacking of baby ducks. So, it’s an excellent time to go and partake in the most wholesome of Sunday activities: going to the duck pond with a stale baguette to feed the birds…

Except, it turns out, that feeding birds with bread is a matter of ‘loaf and death.’ But why is bread so bad, when the ducks themselves seem to love it? Firstly, it makes them fat. And while a fat duck is an adorable concept, this makes it harder for them to fly or avoid predators. Secondly, they get malnutrition. Bread is an excellent source of carbohydrates and not much else. So a bird that gorges itself on bread will fill up, but still misses out on important nutrients. It’s like the duck equivalent of junk food.

The lack of a proper balanced diet can also be passed onto ducklings who won’t develop properly in the egg and have laterally pointing wings and, therefore, unable to fly. This incurable condition is called Angelwing. It can also lead to other diseases. The easy food supply leads to lots of ducks, geese and swans converging on the same point and so bird diseases can spread more easily. Mouldy bread can cause aspergillosis in ducks, a lung infection which is fatal.

And it doesn’t just hurt ducks. Uneaten bread in water is a pollutant attracting pests and harbouring bacteria and mould; it can lead to a surface algae growth. Algae gives off toxins which can harm fish and frog life in the water and blocks sunlight from reaching the underwater plants which can, in turn, damage the entire ecosystem.

So, the bad news is, we wrought untold ecological damage as six year olds. But, the good news, if you still want to feed the ducks then you can. The Canal and River Trust recommends oats, corn, or defrosted frozen peas as healthy alternatives to bread. And also to try and find a feeding spot off the beaten track so no birds get overfed.

So, the wholesome fun can continue just without the wholewheat.

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