Feeding ducks – though awesome and soul-replenishing in theory – is unfortunately harmful in practice.
Ducks seem to enjoy smacking their quackers down on some snacks of the breaded variety, however, this is actually a danger for them. Bread is empty calories for ducks, explained Wallis Moore-Reid. The senior wildlife rehabilitator at Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) added that the air-like food is very filling, but doesn’t provide any nutrients.
Moore-Reid said if ducks eat too much bread, they can get intestinal problems. For ducklings, it can cause growth deformities and lead to low bone density or metabolic bone disease, where their bones can fracture easily.
Throwing bread crumbs in the water can also affect the entire ecosystem, said Moore-Reid. If the food is not ingested by ducks it can lead to excessive growth of microbes that can pollute the water and disturb other microbes that support plant growth.
Wild ARC suggests never feeding wildlife in general, as all sorts of problems can develop from this unnatural habit. Moore-Reid highlighted problems such as population issues which leads to disease outbreak.
“It seems harmless if you aren’t doing it often, but if everyone is feeding them a little bit, it’s actually a lot,” said Moore-Reid.
The BC SPCA states on its website that feeding wildlife is unhealthy, as human foods are not a good substitute for natural foods that they are evolved to eat, it also spreads disease when they gather in larger groups than they normally would, and it causes habituation.
“Unfortunately, this loss of fear has an impact beyond just the individual animal being fed,” said Meghann Cant, animal welfare educator for the BC SPCA. “When mothers bring their babies to their favourite feeding spots, it can teach the young ones that humans are not to be feared. Growing up on human foods, they can also lose the ability to find food on their own in the wild.”
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