We understand that feeding the ducks, geese and swans is a popular activity for families. Whilst people may give only small amounts of food, the overall result of thousands of visitors feeding wildlife in our parks has consequences for the wildlife that lives there.
See below for some reasons why feeding wildlife can be harmful.
The transmission of disease between birds tends to increase where they gather in large numbers, for example where they are attracted to feeding opportunities.
Find out about how to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it from DEFRA.
Discarded food also attracts rats, which can carry bacteria and diseases that can be harmful to people and wildlife.
Processed ‘human’ food such as refined white bread has low nutrient content and higher levels of additives. It’s healthier for wild ducks and geese to eat naturally occurring food, such as grains and grasses, aquatic plants, and invertebrates. These are nutritionally balanced and often abundantly available, providing everything they need to survive.
Old food rotting in the lake, and more rats (attracted by the food) defecating in the water, can lead to a decline in water quality. Combined with large populations of birds defecating in the water, it can cause an increase in algal blooms. Poor water quality has numerous negative impacts on wildlife and the natural environment, causing plants and animals to become sick and die.
Animals that rely on food handouts can start to behave unnaturally around people. For example, birds leaving the safety of the water to access food, puts them at increased risk attack by humans and other animals. Where larger birds such as geese and swans get too confident around people, they are more likely to mob visitors for food.
Feeding the birds in summer affects the behaviour of young birds and adults, preventing the dispersal of the young to new territories and creating denser populations, which can reduce successful breeding.
It also attracts greater numbers of other scavengers, such as crows and magpies, who are known to bully and prey on songbirds and water birds.