Feeding the birds can be fun—the problem is that feeding ducks and geese at the pond is much more detrimental than most of us think. Giving your local aquatic wildlife food from your pantry not only alters their diet, but changes the environment, too. Here’s why we should just let the ducks get by on their own.
Why you shouldn’t mess with ducks’ diets
Birds like ducks and geese eat a particular diet, and they naturally flock to areas based on their needs. The Wildlife Center of Virginia explains how wild ducks and geese eat “grains and grasses, aquatic plants, and invertebrates, all naturally found in the wild.” When birds are fed small amounts of manufactured food, it doesn’t hurt, but when everyone is coming to the dock to feed the ducks, it becomes a substantial part of their diet and pretty harmful to their health.
Malnutrition leads to metabolic bone disease (MBD), and “Birds with MBD have incredibly soft bones and joints that are often malformed and fractured,” explains The Wildlife Center of Virginia. So to keep the birds healthy and safe, let them find food as they usually would.
How feeding ducks hurts the environment
Aside from the health problems that processed, human foods present for wild birds, it can also disrupt the ecosystem, as birds will flock in larger numbers than usual to locations where they know they can get the stuff you’re giving away. That results in overcrowding, which also affects the terrain and migration patterns. Birds who know they’ll receive food will stick around longer than they should and jeopardize their own survival.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation reported, “30 swans died from starvation at an artificial feeding site during the harsh winter of 93-94. Meanwhile, over 800 swans survived nearby on natural food.” Not only are the birds staying and not able to survive the winters, but this behavior and genetic defects are also passed down to their offspring.
What to do instead of feeding the birds
Some suggest feeding ducks and geese food that greater resemble their natural diet—for example, salad greens, vegetable peels, and nuts. They recommend cutting them up into smaller bites that the animals can easily eat and digest. But in the end, the best thing to do is to watch ducks, geese, and other wildlife exist as they usually would in nature. Take up bird watching, and let them forage for their own food so they can continue healthy and natural lives.