Feed Ducks Frozen Peas, Not Bread, Wildlife Organization Urges

Bread makes ducks sick, prevents them from learning to forage, and can even deform their wings so they can’t fly. Here are some healthier alternatives, if you must feed the ducks.

The British Canal and River Trust is on a mission to save ducks from malnutrition caused by bread. Tossing stale chunks of bread to ducks in a pond or canal is an even more popular pass-time in England than in America apparently.

Nearly three quarters of Brits engage in the activity, tossing nearly 6 million loaves of bread to the birds each year.

Bread, especially white bread, doesn’t have much nutritional value, but like humans, ducks tend to stuff themselves with the tasty treat, not leaving room for more nutritious food, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Reliance on human-supplied junk food also prevents ducklings from learning how to forage healthy food on their own.

Additionally, uneaten bread crumbs attract predators like rats, grow mold that makes ducks and other riparian animals sick, and contribute to harmful algae blooms.

Worst of all, feeding ducks bread can even prevent them from flying. A high-carb, high-protein diet of mostly bread can cause a wing deformity known as “angel wing” or “airplane wing” that causes the end feathers to stick out sideways instead flat against the body, so that it can’t fly.

Still, humans love feeding ducks. It brings us joy to be able to connect and interact with wildlife in such a way.

Luckily, the Canal and River Trust says we can still feed the ducks, in moderation, with healthier foods that are closer to their natural diet.

The charity even conducted a taste test to see which healthy foods ducks like best. Here’s the list:

1. Frozen peas and pea shoots (don’t cook the peas, but let them thaw)

2. Sweet corn (canned, frozen or fresh)

3. Lettuce or cabbage (kale is their favorite!)

4. Oats (rolled, steel-cut, or instant, they’ll love this treat in moderation)

5. Seeds (bird seed or seeds from the health food market)

6. Rice (cooked or uncooked, in moderation)

Just keep in mind, all of these items are special treats to be given sparingly. Ducks natural diet consists of algae, aquatic plants, worms, crustaceans, snails, small fish and fish eggs, insects, small amphibians, berries, fruits and nuts.