Hey Mr Green,
I understand that human food is no good for our waterfowl. I watch as families come down to the nearby pond with bags of leftover bread and proceed to give it to the birds. Since they are unlikely to change this habit, is there any healthier food for waterfowl that I could recommend people to feed these birds? --Joe, West Hempstead, New York
Feeding waterfowl is bad for the birds and bad for the environment, according no less an authority than my fellow bird-lovers at the Audubon Society. Leftovers, bread, cookies, etc. can make waterfowl sick because it’s not their natural diet. Worse yet, feeding lures way too many birds to congregate in the same place, which pollutes water with excess bird manure, and ruins vegetation that other critters need. Also, when the waterfowl are too crowded the situation can start to resemble those notorious confined animal feeding operations where chickens and pigs persecute each other by pecking and tail-biting (a problem that is rather inhumanely solved by snipping the beak tip and docking the tail). Female ducks in overcrowded areas even wind up in care centers after gang-rapes by drakes driven crazy by unnatural crowding.
Then there’s the wild dignity of these wonderful birds. Instead of being on the move, in the wild, and foraging as they have for millennia, they become sedentary domesticated layabouts waiting for us humans to rain down the manna of junk food. Such coddling may even damage the wild population by enabling weak birds to pass defects into the gene pool.
But if you can’t talk folks out of feeding the fowl, the next best option is to convince them to leave the bread and cookies at home, and dispense only cracked corn or “all-purpose” (also called “triple duty”) poultry and waterfowl feed. The latter is closer to their natural diet, with a mix of protein, fat, fiber, and various nutrients essential to avian health. To find feed dealers nearest you who sell cracked corn or all-purpose feed, go to http://www.albersfeed.com/ or http://www.purinamills.com/