It’s a scene as old as time. Taking an extra loaf down to the park to feed the ducks, geese, or swans. But did you know that this age-old tradition is actually harmful to birds?
Geese and ducks get very little nutrition from bread, so when tourists fill them up with bread, they can’t get the nutrients they need from the food around them.
Regularly feeding geese at the park can make them dependent on humans and interfere with their migrations.
Fortunately, there are safer foods to feed geese and ducks than bread. Scroll down to our section “Safe Foods to Feed Ducks and Geese” for some great ideas.
Why You Should Not Feed Ducks and Geese at the Park
1. Leftover Food Attracts Rats and Predators
Especially in busy tourist spots, there is often an abundance of bread left for geese and ducks, some of which will be left uneaten.
This leftover food can attract rats, raccoons, foxes, and other birds – all of which pose a threat to ducks and geese, especially to their eggs and nests.
Read More: What Animals Eat Geese?
2. Bread is Not Nutritious for Geese and Ducks
Bread is very low in nutrition for geese and ducks, but it fills them up quickly.
Feeding ducks and geese an excess amount of bread prevents them from feeding on their natural diet of plants and bugs and can make them malnourished.
3. Bread Causes Angel Wing
Bread causes an illness in both Ducks and Geese known as Angel Wing. This cruel condition is a deformity in the wings that prevents the birds from being able to fly.
To take part in their annual migration, geese need to be able to fly at up to 23,000 feet, so any wing injury is completely debilitating for them and prevents them from migrating with their flock.
One hypothesis is that the malnutrition caused by excess bread consumption weakens the wing to a point where it can not hold the weight of the feathers.
Related Article: 7 Foods Not to Feed Ducks
Feeding Interferes With Birds’ Migration Patterns
Geese are migratory, which means they fly south every winter and north every summer, to avoid the harsh weather and go where there is plenty of food.
When geese are in a public park, there is often an abundance of bread for them because of all the tourists. This means they may not notice a drop in available food which triggers tier migration and stay all winter in ars weather.
5. Overfeeding Creates a Dependency on Humans
When birds don’t have to forage for food, they forget the skills they need to survive in the wild.
Overfeeding birds at the park makes them reliant on humans to survive, after a few generations the birds are completely unable to fend for themselves.
Safe Foods to Feed Ducks and Geese
OK, so we know bread is a bad idea for ducks and geese, but what’s a better option? The best option for ducks and geese is to feed them non-processed food that’s closed to what they might find while foraging naturally.
Some safe food for ducks and geese:
Packs of birdseed are a great option for taking to the park because they mimic the natural diet of seeds, grasses, and grains that geese graze on in the wild.
If you’re scattering the seeds, make sure not to include sunflower seeds since the shells contain a toxin that damages the surrounding plants. (They are safe for the birds to eat tough)
Read Also: Do Ducks Nest on Ground?
2. Boiled Rice
Geese and ducks love rice! It’s a cheap and nutritious substitute for bread. If you really want to help them, boil the rice first, which makes it softer and easier to digest, and means it won’t inflate in their stomachs.
Simple oats are highly nutritious for birds of all varieties. Oats are a much better option than bread, and you can scatter them to simulate foraging and help the birds practice tier natural feeding behaviors.
4. Fruits and Vegetables
Geese are mostly herbivores and find their food in the wild by foraging for seeds and berries and grazing on grasses and foliage.
In the wild, fruits and berries make up an important part of their diet and are much more useful for the birds than bread.
Some fruits and vegetables that are safe for ducks and geese include:
- Shredded Lettuce
- Chopped apple
Is There Anything Else You Shouldn’t Feed Ducks and Geese?
There are quite a few things that are unhealthy for ducks and geese that you should avoid feeding them while they are at the park.
Bread lacks nutrition, causes illnesses such as Angel Wing, fills birds up quickly, and overfeeding can cause ducks and geese to become dependent on humans for food, losing tier natural ability to forage.
In a recent news story from England, a large percentage of goslings born this year on Doncaster lake (a popular tourist spot) were born with Angel Wing and will be unable to migrate with their families. Without human intervention, the goslings would not last the winter.
This is caused by overfeeding of bread by tourists, which is not nutritious and prevents the geese from eating the more nutritious plants and grains available to them through foraging.
2. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are healthy for birds, but the shells contain a toxin that harms the plants around the seeds.
This is an evolutionary advantage for the sunflower since it gets rid of any plants that would be competing with the seed for light, but it’s bad news for ducks and geese since it can kill the plants they rely on for food.
Geese can not digest meat, and meat attracts rats and raptors that eat goose and duck eggs and chicks. Furthermore, geese’ strange teeth are unable to tear apart strong food like meat or fish.
Read More: Can Geese Eat Meat?
So to sum up you should never feed ducks bread in the park because it can end up with them being reliant on humans for food and it’s not really very nutritional for them anyway. In addition, any uneaten food can attract rats which are natural predators of goslings and goose eggs.
A better option for ducks and geese is to feed them fruits, seeds, or vegetables. Grapes work really well but you can also feed them oats, birdseed, or shredded lettuce.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.