IT’S IN YOUR HANDS
Bread is surprisingly bad for waterfowl when fed to them in excess – but luckily there are lots of alternatives that are good for both animals and the environment
FEEDING BREAD TO the ducks is a fond pastime for many of us, reminiscent of happy childhood trips to the local park. But did you know that bread actually poses a danger to birds, as well as the environment? Eating it can cause our feathered friends to develop a condition called Angel Wing, which is when too much bread makes birds’ feathers grow too quickly. This additional weight puts a strain on their muscles, causing their wings to twist and drop open, and if not treated fast, they can lose the ability to fly.
“Angel Wing can be remedied if we reach birds before it has developed too severely,” says Caroline Simpson, a trustee of UK charity Swan Lifeline, which has rescued and treated more than 30,000 birds over the last 20 years. “Otherwise the repercussions can be dire – such as amputation of the wing.” Adult swans can also develop gut and heart disease, so it’s important we do our bit to prevent this by feeding wild birds the right kind of food.
Bread can also cause harmful changes to the natural ecosystem. Rotting bread at the bottom of rivers and lakes allows bacteria to breed, spreading disease and attracting rats and other vermin to our waterways. It can result in algal blooms and the presence of a mould called Aspergillus too, which has the potential to kill waterfowl and other wildlife if it gets into their lungs.
But this doesn’t mean we have to stop fun trips to feed the ducks. Giving birds the right food – like frozen peas, sweetcorn and lettuce leaves – is good for both them and the environment. So, next time you visit your local park, take a healthier alternative with you and do your bit to protect our precious wildlife.