On… Not Feeding Bread To Ducks

This is not a new issue, but it’s something that’s been highlighted again the news this week, and an issue which I feel very strongly about – Ducks and Bread.

Photograph from the Canal & River Trust

Many of us, at some point in our lives have had the experience of going to feed the ducks. If you were born in the 1980’s or earlier, you’ve most likely taken bread for these occasions. What we didn’t know back then, was that bread is not a suitable diet for ducks.

Last year, the Canal & River Trust discovered that a whopping 6 million loaves of bread were being thrown into canals and rivers each year, by well meaning but poorly informed people.

Experts from the RSPB report that bread has no nutritional value to ducks and birds, and they often eat it at the expense of better foods. This can then lead to an illness known as angel wing, a deformity in the wings, which can prevent a bird being able to fly properly, and is a direct result of malnourishment.

Wandsworth Council Sign. From Cokespeak.org

Bread in waterways can cause numerous problems, including a build up of bad nutrients (when the bread goes soggy and hangs around in the water) which can lead to algae growth and the spread of disease, attracting rats. It can also result in over-crowding of birds in areas where a lot of bread is thrown. Think excess bird droppings, bacteria and stress from habitat destruction – it’s a fate even worse than your morning commute on the tube!

The great news is that last years campaign by the Canal & River Trust has had fantastic results. There’s still much to do, as the number of loaves being thrown into the waterways still amounts to 3.5 million, but it’s a step in the right direction.


If you were brought up with a tradition of feeding the ducks when you were a child, and want to continue this with your own family, you do not have to stop. It’s easy to feed the birds and healthy and more balanced food type. And here’s a list of things that are safe for them to eat – all just as easy to obtain as bread:

Peas & Corn (if frozen, they should be defrosted first)

Lettuce (one of the most commonly wasted foods in the UK)



Cooked Rice

Most of us can put our hands on these common food items as easily as a slice of bread. Please remember the health of the ducks, when you wish to enjoy nature with your family.

The Canal & River Trust are giving away a free Waterside Quests booklet and duck food pouch. Just click here to order yours.

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