February 17, 2015
It's Not for the Birds!
Feeding ducks, geese and other waterfowl can be harmful to their health
Excited ducks and geese gather around as someone tosses tidbits of food on the ground or in the water. The birds grab the stale bread, crackers or popcorn then hurry back for more.
You’ve probably seen people feeding waterfowl stale bread or crackers at a park or pond. In fact, you may even have done it yourself. But what most people don’t realize is that feeding ducks and geese can be very harmful to the birds. It can even lead to their death.
While kids can get away with eating junk food once in a while, young birds can’t. Birds grow much faster than humans. What they eat each and every day is very important to their proper growth. Without proper nutrition, problems occur.
“Angel wing” is a condition young waterfowl can develop due to a poor diet. Birds with the condition have wings that unnaturally twist outward instead of lying flat
against the bird’s body. Birds with angel wing can’t fly. They can’t escape danger and are often killed by other animals or hit by cars. And they can’t
fly away from bad weather and may starve or freeze to death.
Proper nutrition is just as important for adult waterfowl as it is for their young. Adults need strong muscles for migration. They also need a healthy body for reproduction and replacement of their feathers. Wildlife rehabilitation centers worldwide see a large number of geese, ducks and swans suffering from angel wing. If caught early enough, some birds can be helped. But most victims of angel wing never receive treatment.
Deborah Millman, director of The Fund for Animals Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts, says, "Not feeding waterfowl bread, crackers and similar foods is the best way for people to prevent angel wing. Know the effect your food might have on waterfowl and make wise choices."