For many children, feeding ducks at the local pond is one of their earliest experiences with wildlife. Unfortunately, this traditional pastime is dangerous for both ducks and our waterways.
Why You Shouldn’t Feed Ducks Bread
Ducks and other waterfowl simply don’t need human intervention to find sources of food. While feeding ducks won’t affect their migration (the urge to migrate is inspired by changes in weather and temperature), feeding waterfowl unhealthy foods can create other problems.
White bread has no nutritional value for ducks, and an abundance of it can cause them to forego foods with more nutritional value. The bread that ducks don’t eat can be a problem too. As it decomposes in and around the water, leftover foods can attract rodents and even cause harmful blooms. Additionally, ducks and geese that have grown accustomed to being fed frequently can become aggressive, making the local park a much less pleasant place to be for everyone.
Other Ways Kids Can Enjoy and Help Wild Birds
Feeding geese and ducks white bread can be dangerous, but there are still plenty of ways to encourage child’s desire to care for the creatures around them.
Become a Citizen Scientist
The next time you visit your favorite lake or pond, have your kid count the different types of ducks and geese you see and record them via the Merlin Bird ID app (the app can help you identify species you don’t know). Scientists use the data to help track migration patterns around the world, meaning kids get to take part in actual scientific work that will help improve the lives of birds.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to Birding
Take Part in Habitat Cleanup
Kids can also help waterfowl at ponds by picking up trash, especially any fishing line they come across. Fishing line can easily tangle birds, leading to injuries and even death for adults and ducklings alike. Just be sure your kids are able to identify and avoid sharp fishing hooks.
Become a Backyard Bird Feeder
Feeding backyard birds is another great way to experience wildlife up close without risking harm. Hang a bird feeder where you can easily see it (within three feet of a window, or more than 30 feet away in order to reduce window strikes). Experiment with different types of feeders including seed and suet, in order to attract a variety of birds to your yard.
Leftovers That You Can Feed Birds
Many people feed birds leftover bread as a way to keep food from going to waste. While stale bread is best turned into breadcrumbs, croutons, or French toast (kids preferred option), there are some foods safe to feed wild birds. Ducks can safely eat peas and corn, although it may still be best to forego feeding them so they don’t become too aggressive. Mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins and waxwings will eat fruits like raisins, and many types of birds like the dried seeds of pumpkins and apples. Orioles will enjoy oranges cut in half as well.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
Alternatives to Feeding Ducks and Geese
While feeding ducks may be an easy way to entertain kids the pond, there are plenty of other fun activities that will engage your kids with nature: Learn how to fold paper boats and float them along the water. Play Pooh sticks from a bridge. Skip rocks (away from the birds, of course!) or hunt for frogs. Keep taking your kids to ponds to enjoy the wildlife around them, but please, leave the bird feeding for home.