Feeding the Ducks?
Is duck feeding a sound practice? For those of you who have a pond around your home, or who visit a local pond at a park or even the “duck pond” at Ball State University, I thought you might find this question relevant to your own choices. After speaking with some great people from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, as well as doing some reading of my own, I made some fascinating discoveries.
Feeding any migratory bird is considered to be a questionable practice. The fear is that the feeding migratory birds will change their migration habits because of the ready source of food. This is the same concept many are taught about feeding squirrels or a stray dog or cat: “If you feed it, it will keep coming back for more.”
The reality, though, is that wild animals in places like local parks areas are often “local” animals. In many cases, the animals have already adjusted their migratory and feeding habits to the resources and the routine of the area. Essentially, they’re domestic wild animals. Feeding them in a local setting probably does not damage their migratory cycle because they have adapted to local resources.
A different question is whether feeding them stale bread, as many of us did as children, is appropriate. The resounding answer to that question is, “No.”
When pond ducks or geese are eating bread they fill up very quickly. However, bread lacks many nutrients their bodies need. Just as we must eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, etc., the same is true for ducks. You or I would become sick, if all we ever ate was bread.
When waterfowl fill up with bread and they’re no longer hungry, they do not go out and scavenge for things like bugs or fish that would give them a more balanced diet. Eventually these bread-eating waterfowl become malnourished, even while having plenty of food.
Overfeeding is another concern of feeding ducks and geese. Too much food can damage their organs and can create excess waste that can be detrimental to waterfowl habitat.
There are healthier options. If you enjoy feeding the ducks in your back yard pond, consider bringing them some grapes that have been cut in half, small shreds of vegetable peelings, or diced lettuce. This provides them with a whole different set of nutrients. Cutting the offerings into small pieces reduces the choking hazard.
Another option is feeding the birds less processed grains, like cracked corn, oats or barley. If you’re not grossed out at the thought of dried insects or earthworms, these are also great treats for the ducks that provide a goodx source of protein. For an easy approach, simply buy duck food from an animal feed store. It contains a specific mix of vitamins ducks need.
I won’t tell you not to feed the ducks or geese in your pond, but I would encourage you to think of healthy options for our local water-loving fowl. We want to enjoy them in our area for years to come.
Stephanie Dilk is the education manager at Minnetrista. She can be reached at (765) 287-3528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.