By Chirsty Hart-Harris
Posted Jun. 2, 2014 @ 12:02 pm
COLDWATER — Every year during the summer months, Waterworks park is filled with families enjoying the sun, company and the many ducks that frequent the park’s river. The best part is feeding the ducks. Although it is done with good intentions, feeding the duck bread and human food products can cause their organs to become engorged and fatty, which in turn can cause them to suffer from heart disease, liver problems and other health complications.
According to Duck rescue network, a informational organization specializing in duck rescues, “When wild ducks are fed human food (especially bread or crackers) their Bread also has very few nutrients, and can get compacted in a bird’s crop. Many rehabilitators see “bread-impacted crop” in sick and distressed park ducks.”
Bread is very low in protein and contains additives that wildfowl are not able to digest properly. Ducklings require vital nutrients during their crucial first weeks. If they are fed bread, they can experience splay leg, angel wing, slipped tendons and other growing defects.
Waterfowl at artificial feeding sites are often found to suffer from poor nutrition. In a natural setting they will seek out a variety of nutritious foods such as aquatic plants, natural grains, and invertebrates.
Sophia DiPietro, Biologist and Wildlife Rescuer at All Species Kinship in Battle Creek Mich., said, “There are healthier ways to feed wildlife without causing the harmful impacts of bread feeding. The most helpful time to feed birds is during winter-time when food sources are scarce.”
DiPietro suggests feeding them cracked corn, non-medicated poultry scratch and greens such as turnips or dandelion greens ripped into small pieces.
Feeding the ducks at the parks can be a fun experience for children especially. It can also cause issues to arise between the ducks and humans. As most frequenters of Waterworks park have witnessed, competition for each bread crumb is extremely high. Ducks may also become unnaturally aggressive towards each other and to humans. Some ducks, usually the younger ones, are unable to compete for the food and never learn to forage naturally.
Feeding the ducks also has the potential to creates an unnaturally high population of waterfowl and diseases can flourish in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
In addition, attracting ducks teaches them not to fear humans. This can be a problem as some “rehabilitators often see ducks purposefully chased by dogs and children, with injuries from dog bites or thrown rocks – or – all too often run over by cars,” said DRN.
DNR suggests substituting bread with “cheerios, grapes cut in half, a thawed bag of frozen peas or corn, or kale, romaine or other leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce).”
DiPietro said, “Say no to bread and yes to greens and grains instead.”