By AMANDA WHEELER
10:40 AM EDT, October 10, 2011
When I was little, my family would love to take bread to the pond and feed ducks, geese and whatever else would eat our offerings.
I've always enjoyed sharing similar experiences with my nieces and taking them down to the lake to feed bread to the ducks.
I always thought that even though the ducks could get food themselves, they enjoyed our visits and our special treats.
While I was in Trinidad this summer, we stayed in the mountains for a few days and there were lots and lots of different birds around. Every morning after breakfast the people who worked at the place we stayed at would take the leftover fruit and bread and place it outside for the birds to eat.
One day we were doing a comparison to see if the birds liked the bread or the fruit more. While we were doing this study someone let us know, much to our surprise, that bread was bad for the birds.
Lots of people were shocked, including me. How can bread be bad for birds? I've always fed birds bread and they have always appeared happy and hungry for more.
The person explained that the bread actually fills up the birds stomach without providing much nutritional value at all, so the birds don't eat other food because they aren't hungry.
I did some research on the topic once I came back to the states and I found out that bread is so low in nutritional value for birds that it can cause serious health issues for ducks.
A little bread here and there might not hurt ducks, but if everyone feeds ducks bread, as many do, it could pose a problem. There’s really nothing good about even just a little bread for ducks, because the nutritional value is so low.
As it turns out, good alternative things to feed to birds include peas, corn, and grapes (cut in half). These things are better for them, but they’re also meant to be treats and shouldn't be fed to them every day.
The problem with feeding birds anything arises when the food they’re getting from people turns into a substantial part of their diets.
Bad nutrition isn’t the only problem with feeding birds. Ducks and other birds that are fed by people have a higher rate of aggression toward other birds because they are competing for food when they would usually be searching for food on their own without having to compete.
Birds who are fed by people all the time also won't learn how to find and get their own food, so if people stop coming by to feed them, they won't be able to take care of themselves.
And finally, if people feed migratory birds on a regular basis year-round, the birds might not choose to migrate and then be stuck in unfriendly climates when the temperature drops.
It seems to me the best option in the long run is to look out for the best interests of the ducks by enjoying them from a distance and not feeding them, even if that means my memories of feeding birds with my family will have to stay just memories.
Amanda's Animal Fact of the Week
Mallards are thought to be the most abundant duck on earth
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