Nature on our doorsteps - Feeding the ducks

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Going out to feed left-over bread to the ducks in a local pond or river is perhaps many children’s first engagement with nature.

In recent years, however, this practice has been questioned.

Feeding the birds helps us engage with nature compressor

Feeding the birds helps us engage with nature

Most of the bread fed to ducks and swans is white bread.

While a little white bread is not harmful to these birds, a diet consisting only of white bread can be, particularly if the bread is mouldy and green.

White bread does not have the nutrients that these birds need for a healthy diet.

It can also fill them up very quickly, making them less interested in their usual and more nutritious diet of water plants, worms, insects, snails, seeds and berries.

Where regular bread feeding occurs, high numbers of birds can gather.

Good advice in Tymon Park on what to feed the ducks compressor

Good advice in Tymon Park on what to feed the ducks

This increases competition between the birds, leading to very stressful conditions for them.

Higher bird numbers also mean a lot more bird droppings in the water.

When this is combined with rotting uneaten bread which sinks to the bottom of the pond, the water can become polluted.

So, while it is still fine to offer just a little bread to ducks and swans, other healthier treats like left-over lettuce, dry porridge oats, birdseed, defrosted frozen peas, and left-over cooked rice would be far better for them.

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