Many industrial heritage sites in the UK such as canals and rivers are home to ducks and other waterfowl. Our feathered friends are a welcome addition to these landscapes and feeding the ducks is a fine pastime shared by many. When thinking about feeding the ducks, one food comes straight to mind…bread; however, is it a good choice?
Bread is the conventional choice of food for ducks. We even have fond memories of feeding bread to ducks in the park as children. So, is bread healthy for ducks? Let’s hear from the experts.
What the experts say
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said “All types of bread can be digested by birds, but ideally it should only be just one component in a varied diet. Bread does not contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler. Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.”
The Swan Sanctuary
The Swan Sanctuary published a statement from David Barber, The Queen’s Swan Marker. “Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects. While bread may not be the best dietary option for swans compared to their natural food such as river weed, it has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them to survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.”
Swan Support said “Now more than ever, our swans and water birds need you. Sadly, with many places instigating a no feed bread policy and with no grass to graze on and little natural water vegetation, it means that many have gone hungry this summer. Lots of the juvenile swans, geese and ducks we have begun to admit this autumn are seriously underweight and malnourished.”
Can you feed ducks bread?
Yes, you can feed bread to ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl; however, it’s not the most nutritious option. Think of bread as a junk food for ducks, it’s processed, packed with carbohydrates, and too much can lead to weight gain.
There is consensus that birds require a balanced diet, much like humans; therefore, bread should be fed in moderation, but, it’s near impossible to know if a group of ducks in one location have eaten well up to that point of the day when you feed them.
Based on the above, you may wish to use nutritious foods more so during the warmer months. Bear in mind, that very hot weather will limit the growth of natural vegetation, making bread a helpful source of food.
Use bread more often during the colder months to give birds a higher level of energy required for survival. That said, if you don’t have any nutritious alternatives, do take bread with you if available.
If you plan to feed ducks bread, please do the following:
- Do not use mouldy bread
- Break bread into smaller pieces
- Always feed bread in water
- Do not feed ducks copious amounts of bread, try to ensure all birds in a group get a bite instead of a few
What nutritious food can I feed ducks?
Ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl can eat the following foods that will help give them a balanced diet.
- Chopped greens such as cabbage, spinach, and kale
- Defrosted peas
- Sweetcorn (not on the cob and without added salt or sugar)
- Porridge or other oats
- Birdseed and other specialist foods
We are a big fan of feeding porridge because it floats on the surface rather than seed, which sinks quickly making it difficult for birds with smaller necks to reach such as Mallards.
Please note that we are not ornithologists. Consult a professional organisation if you would like more details about the diets of waterfowl.