5 REASONS TO NOT FEED WATERFOWL
1. Feeding can cause waterfowl to lose their natural fear of humans
For many wild animals, survival is contingent upon maintaining a healthy fear of humans. Feeding waterfowl can quickly cause them to lose their instinctive sense of fear. While the provider of food may have the best of intentions, the wildlife still have to survive in a world filled with hazards. On an urban landscape full of dogs, cats, cars and people, the duck or goose that maintains its innate wildness ultimately has the best chance for survival.
2. Feeding waterfowl can lead to dietary and nutritional problems for the birds
The age-old practice of feeding ducks and geese stale bread, pastries, cookies and various other assorted types of junk food can cause significant health problems for these birds. Even if fresh, these highly processed foods provide little or no nutritional value and may actually contribute to malnutrition and starvation among waterfowl. Moldy foods can impact their health just as it does our own. Ducks and geese are far better off building their reserves by moving from location to location in search of a healthy natural diet than they are living on foods that we would never consider feeding to our children or our pets.
3. Feeding waterfowl may lead to overpopulation
Overpopulation can create a variety of problems for waterfowl. For example, it can breed competition between males. Oftentimes, gangs of aggressive males ( or drakes) may attack and severely injure female mallards. Overpopulation can also cause a female to look elsewhere for safe nesting, often far away from a necessary water source.
4. Feeding waterfowl can lead to disease among waterfowl populations
Food handouts often result in large numbers of birds competing for limited food supplies in small, concentrated areas. Unconsumed bread and other "human foods" remain on the ground as nothing more than unsightly litter. Such crowding and competition for food, combined with the stress of less nutritious food especially during harsh weather, increases their susceptibility to life threatening diseases like avian cholera, duck plague and avian botulism. These diseases have the potential to kill off large numbers of waterfowl. Finally waterfowl habituated to human handouts are more likely to take up residence and less likely to be successfully driven away from locations such as golf courses where they may not be welcomed by the human occupants.
5. Feeding waterfowl can lead to habitat degradation
Providing food can attract concentrations of waterfowl beyond what the natural ecosystem can support. Large concentrations of waterfowl can reduce water quality and de-vegetate natural areas. Concentrating large populations of waterfowl into small natural areas is not a sustainable strategy. As numbers increase, natural forage will decrease and the waterfowl will only become more dependent upon handouts.