Sunday, September 21, 2008

Please Don't Feed the Ducks

I have contacted our City Parks and Recreation Office here in Midland, TX, to ask that they post signs in our parks about the hazards to ducks when people feed them. They promised to take that under consideration and I plan to follow up with them again to learn what they decided. Anyone else here in Midland who loves wild birds might consider calling them too. Hearing it from more than one person will help prompt some action.

According to Starr Vartan, Audubon Magazine, ducks are as apt as people to accept junk food. When they eat junk that is high in sugar, salt, fat, and chemicals they are not as apt to forage for healthy foods they would be eating naturally. Starr suggests that, if you insist on feeding the ducks, at least try to offer them something that offers more appropriate nutrients. Poultry starter (feed stores) is one example of a product that is better for them.

There are dangers to ducks, other than just poor diet, when people feed them. Their migration habits may be altered or they may not migrate at all. This can be a threat to their survival and proliferation.

The U. S. Geological Survey (National Wildlife Health Center) has reported that attracting and causing wild ducks to stay in an area is also unhealthy for them because the area quickly becomes covered with fecal material, contaminating everything they eat. Human feeding has been the cause of most incidences of duck die-offs over the last 10 years. Duck virus enteritis and avian botulism are of special concern. The latter prompted ordinances to be passed in New York to make it illegal to feed waterfowl.

Other concerns are the contamination of waterways due to increased levels of E. coli and increased algae. Foods that are thrown to the ducks can become moldy or rancid, further endangering the ducks. These foods attract mice and rats, carriers of diseases that are a danger both to birds and to humans.

Can we find other ways to enjoy the ducks? Maybe teach our kids to identify and name or photograph them instead?

Starr Vartan, “Advice for the Eco-Minded.” Audubon Magazine.
No author given, “Duck Plague (Duck Virus Enteritis).”National Wildlife Health Center, United States Geological Survey

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