Bread Can Stop Ducks From Flying

January 14, 2017 at 11:07 am 2 comments

duck family

Many people have fond childhood memories of feeding ducks at the park. Feeding some stale bread to the birds seems like it’d benefit them, too. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In reality, bread is one of the worst foods you could feed to ducks, especially if it’s cheap white bread.


The biggest issue with feeding bread to ducks is that it has very little nutritional value. This is especially true of white bread, which mainly consists of sugary carbohydrates and not much else. Bread is a high-calorie food that fills ducks up but lacks important vitamins and minerals. A poor diet can lead to a serious medical condition called angel wing. Ducks with this syndrome lose control over their wings, which begin to point outwards (hence the name). This eventually leaves the duck sick and incapable of flight. Unless treated right away, most ducks will succumb to the disease—there is no real cure. The risk of angel wing syndrome should be reason enough not to feed bread to ducks.

Filling up on bread

Another problem is that when people feed bread to ducks (remember, you’re not the only one doing this!), they fill up on empty carbs. Ducks with access to bread may stop foraging for food completely. This contributes to the aforementioned vitamin deficiencies and diseases. Overfed ducks can also end up obese, shortening their lifespans and making it even harder for them to forage. These ducks may come to rely on handouts from humans, which can become a problem at certain times of the year. When people stop going to parks in winter, the supply of bread ends and the ducks have to find alternative food sources. If they’ve never learned to do this or are too unhealthy to look for food, they’re likely to starve.


If you must feed ducks, at least ditch the bread. Stop by your local animal feed store (ideally one that specializes in farm animals) and pick up food designed for ducks. These foods generally consist of pellets and are sometimes mixed with seeds or corn. Although it’s probably best to simply watch wild ducks, buy a proper pelleted diet if you can’t resist feeding them.

duck food

Most of us have fed wild animals at least once—there’s no point in feeling terrible if you’ve been feeding ducks without realizing the potential damage. In general, ecologists and conservationists disapprove of feeding waterfowl. Nonetheless, if a friend insists on the activity, at least point them in the right direction. Nutritionally balanced duck feed is cheap, easy to obtain, and won’t cause much harm to the local duck population.

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photo: Jeffery Wright (cc)


Entry filed under: Animals.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kenneth T.  |  January 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

    It’s also not very nutritional for the birds.

  • 2. Angela  |  January 23, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    I’ve been with a wildlife rehabilitation center for 7 years and have seen many waterfowl patients admitted with Angel Wing and other issues due to poor nutrition (from humans). Sadly, not all of them can be saved. I truly believe a lot of people wouldn’t feed wildlife if they were aware of the cruel and devastating effects it has – effects that they likely never see. Thank you for helping to spread the word!


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