Human food is junk food for ducks and geese. Feeding waterfowl is not good for them or the environment.
Richardson parks are home to many kinds of colorful ducks and geese that we all love. Taking kids to the park to feed the ducks is a tradition in many families, and while the ducks may seem excited and happy to see you, eating bread and other human food is not good for them. Nature provides them with everything they need to stay healthy. It may be hard to imagine that a handful of bread or a stray french fry could hurt the birds. But in most cases, one well-intentioned person leaves and another soon arrives, and before long, the birds are only eating human food.
Why is human food bad?
Foods such as bread, popcorn and chips are tasty to humans, but don't provide the nutrients waterfowl need to survive. Waterfowl that are malnourished or devoid of vital nutrients result in:
- the development of deformed wings (propeller wings)
- a decrease in reproductive rates
- an increased susceptibility to predators
- the loss of flight ability
- lowered energy
- lowered life expectancy
That's a lot of birds
Everyone has seen it. You throw a few bread crumbs out for a handful of ducks and before you know it, dozens if not hundreds of birds have flocked to you. And while this is cool to see, it is not good for the birds. When too many ducks or geese live in a small area, it is easier for the birds to catch diseases and get each other sick. Since we don't want our feathered friends to get sick, please don't feed them and contribute to their overcrowding.
Eating bread has side effects?
Another problem when people start feeding ducks and geese is the birds lose their fear of humans and can become more aggressive, while also being easier prey for animals that eat ducks and geese. Some birds will also die because they cannot compete for the natural resources or the human handouts.
Having too many birds in one place is also not good for the environment. The birds can become a nuisance by grazing on grass, and excess nutrients in ponds caused by bird droppings can result in water quality problems. Uneaten food can pollute the water and can also attract other animals and pests.
Ducks and geese will eat almost anything they find including litter and old fishing supplies like lead weights. Please leave the natural environment in its natural state and throw away your trash.
What can you do to help?
- Please don't feed the waterfowl.
- Help educate others about why feeding ducks and geese is not good for the birds.
- Pick up your trash, and any other trash you see in the park, litter can hurt birds in so many ways.
- Don't let kids or dogs chase the waterfowl.
Typical waterfowl diet
- Grass, weeds and clippings
- Small fish and fish eggs
- Small crustaceans
- Algae, aquatic plants and roots
- Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians
- Aquatic and land insects
- Seeds and grain
- Small berries, fruits and nuts
Even though these are the foods ducks and geese should eat, please don't feed them to the birds - waterfowl will become dependent on us for food.
Alternative Interactive Activities
Photography - Take up a new hobby and share it with your family. Photography is a great way to witness wildlife in it's natural state, admire its beauty and see its natural behavior.
Research various species - Find a new species of waterfowl and then research at the local library or online to learn more about it. Make a game to identify the most species in your family.
Bird Watching - Enjoy some time in the parks hiking and watching birds with binoculars. Let that be time to learn more about birds' natural behavior. Log each bird you have seen, research it and see if you can later identify by site or audio.
My family has historically made trips to our local parks to feed the ducks and we would like to continue doing so. Is there anything that I can feed the ducks so as to not cause harm to them?
Ducks and other waterfowl have an ample food supply provided to them from their environment. Human feeding, even items provided to them from nature, causes behavioral issues that can threaten their lives. We recommend you try alternative interaction activities and let the ducks forage for their own food. This will result in longer, healthier lives for our feathered friends..
On my most recent visit to the park, I witnessed individuals feeding the ducks. I know this is not considered good practice. Should I confront these people or call 911? I know the importance of allowing the ducks to find their own food. I want to help, but not sure how.
Currently, there are no laws or ordinances prohibiting feeding the ducks. Our hope is to educate the public so they will learn the benefits of not feeding waterfowl. If you feel comfortable in doing so, you can always inform those engaging in this activity of the harm it can do to the ducks. Please refrain from being confrontational. If there is a sign in close proximity, you may want to direct the individuals to one of the park signs that explains why feeding waterfowl is not beneficial.
Texas Parks & Wildlife
Urban Wildlife Management