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

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

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.

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