Poster claiming bread is healthy for ducks gets its facts in a flap

16 September 2021
What was claimed

Feeding bread to ducks is safe and doesn't make them sick.

Our verdict

Many wildlife charities say bread should only be fed to ducks in small amounts. It should form part of a much wider, nutrient-rich diet and is less important during spring and summer.

A Facebook post shows a photograph of a poster claiming it’s safe to feed bread to ducks.  

The poster suggests the idea that bread makes ducks ill is wrong and has led to the birds “dying of starvation”.

It also encourages others to feed them with bread, especially in winter.

The poster has been circulating on social media since 2019 when it was found and later removed from a park in Derbyshire.

While experts and charities don’t unanimously agree about the harm it can cause, most believe it’s safe in small amounts. However, it should not make up a duck’s sole diet and should be supplemented with more nutritious food.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) told the BBC that ducks should be fed a variety of other healthier foods such as sweetcorn, porridge oats, peas and bird seed. It has also said that birds fed with a diet of predominantly or only bread “can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.”

The Canal and River Trust, which says bread is bad for ducks, adds that uneaten bread “can cause a build-up of bad nutrients, which can lead to more algae growing around water, more diseases and more pests, such as rats.” It also suggests feeding ducks sweetcorn, lettuce, peas, oats, seeds and rice instead.

Waterfowl charity Swan Support argues against discouraging bread as feed, stating in a post from 2018 that doing so “could actually have a detrimental effect on the waterfowl.”  It does agree however that bread should not be thrown into water if it’s not being eaten. 

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) says it is best to feed birds in winter when natural vegetation is in short supply and fewer people are likely to offer food. This is less vital in spring and summer when young birds are learning to forage. It also advises to never use old food that is going mouldy as it can be harmful and cause fungal diseases like aspergillosis (an infectious disease which can cause respiratory problems, eye lesions or other chronic lesions in birds).

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