(NaturalNews) It is a popular childhood pastime; but one that is having a devastating effect on bird populations that live in city parks and other urban environments, according to one local bird advocate in the Sacramento, California area. Feeding the birds; which usually involves throwing chunks of bread or other human food scraps at flocks of geese and ducks, is actually causing many of these creatures to develop severe wing deformities, a fact that was recently corroborated in a study conducted by the city of Sacramento.
Judy McClaver, a local bird observer, first began to notice about a year ago that many of the birds living in McKinley Park on Sacramento's east side were developing strange wind deformities. Based on her observations, many of the ducks, geese, and other fowl in the park suddenly had wings that were perking out and pointing up rather than resting neatly at the birds' sides, an anomaly that sparked curiosity in McClaver. And after investigating the situation further, McClaver came to a shocking realization.
"I did some research, and found out it's caused by us, from the human food that we feed them," explained McClaver to KTXL FOX40News in Sacramento about the wing deformities. "Human food is not digestible in the birds' systems."
McClaver initially tried to deter park visitors from feeding the birds bread scraps and other types of human food on her own, which was mildly successful. But she eventually approached the city of Sacramento about the issue, which came to the same conclusion as she did -- human food is basically toxic for most birds, and feeding it to them can cause developmental defects.
For a while, the city had signs posted throughout the park warning visitors about the toxicity of human food for birds, and many people followed them. But eventually, park visitors stopped feeding the birds altogether, which the city saw as a detriment. So, it eventually made the unilateral decision to remove all the signs, prompting McClaver to post her own handmade signs throughout the park. She also hands out appropriate bird feed for free when she can, which has has a somewhat positive impact.
"Feeding bread, seed, crackers, chips, popcorn or even bird seed to ducks is the equivalent of feeding your child nothing but candy," explains the official website of North Richland Hills, Texas, about ducks and the environment. "Ducks like the bread or other food, and will clamor for it much like a child will ask for candy. But the human food has no nutritional value for waterfowl; it fills their stomachs up so that they do not eat the foods they need in order to remain healthy."