Problems Associated With Feeding Ducks and Geese at Parks

Recently, I read a paper written by Dr. Dave McRuer outlining the unintended consequences of feeding waterfowl at parks. Good natured people who want to help the ducks and geese with a free meal are actually harming them. Supplemental feeding of waterfowl is actually killing them with kindness. Here are some of the problems associated with this activity:

  1. Overcrowding – Ducks and geese are a lot like humans. When they find out that ‘free food’ is available, they flock to it. When large numbers of any species congregate in one small area, the huge number of animals cause overcrowding. Overcrowding leads to disease transmission and destruction of the environment. It is also bad for the birds. Dr. McRuer states that during mating season, female ducks may drown when they cannot escape the large number of amorous males.
  2. Poor nutrition – In the wild, ducks and geese eat a variety of food. When they live off of people food which is often high and carbohydrates and protein, they suffer nutritional problems. If they are eating high carbohydrate foods such as bread, crackers and popcorn, they often develop calcium deficiency. This causes soft bones that break easily, weak shells when they lay eggs, heart and nerve problems. If they are fed pellets which are high in protein, a condition called ‘angel wings’ occurs.  (More information at )
  3. Delayed migration – Due to the free food, the birds hang around instead of migrating. When the weather changes, many birds will freeze to death. Others will starve to death when the cold weather forces people inside leaving the birds with no food.
  4. Loss of fear for humans – One of the best defense mechanisms for all wild animals is a healthy fear of humans. Animals of any kind that lose their fear of humans are prone to death from dogs and cats as well as automobiles.  They also may be poisoned by humans who don’t want the mess that comes with a large number of waterfowl.

For these reasons, I must strongly encourage you not to feed wild animals. The Wildlife Center of Virginia has come up with a great saying for this.

“No crackers for quackers!”

Source:                                                                                                                          -McRuer, Dave, Consequences of feeding waterfowl in public parks. 2012.

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.