Avoid Feeding Bread to Ducks and Geese to Prevent Angel Wings

‘Angel wings’ is a term used to describe an orthopedic abnormality in ducks and geese. Birds afflicted with this condition have a malformation of the metacarpal joint in their wings.  This makes the ends stick out to the side like an ‘angel’s wings.’ Unfortunately, there is nothing angelic about this condition. Ducks and geese with angel wings are unable to fly and hence, escape danger. Most die from automobile accidents, predator attacks or severe weather. If they are lucky enough to live in an area free from the above dangers, they often die of starvation when they are unable to migrate.


The exact cause of angel wings is not known at this time. It is thought to be caused by an unbalanced diet, too much protein or carbohydrates, causing abnormal growth. According to veterinarian, Dave McRuer, “It occurs when the weight of growing feathers causes rotation of the wing tip by forces exerted on the underlying ligaments and muscles. ” It is usually seen in birds where humans feed them an unbalanced diet. It makes me sad to think the people who want to help these birds are the ones who are hurting them. This reminds me of the marmonts in Glacier Park who die during hibernation because they ate crackers and cookies instead of their normal diet.

Treatment options for angel wings are limited at best. If caught early in young birds, the wings are wrapped back into the correct position and the chick is fed a balanced diet. If the condition is chronic, there are no treatments for correcting the abnormal metacarpal joint. The bird will never be able to fly.

To prevent angel wings, please help spread the word that feeding wild animals people food does more harm than good. For bird feeding, purchase a balanced pelleted diet from your local pet store. Kindness should never kill . . . .

Source:                                                                                                                          -McRuer, Dave, Consequences of feeding waterfowl in public parks. 2012.  http://wildlifecenter.org/news_events/news/problem-feeding-ducks


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.