(NaturalNews) For many people, feeding ducks and geese with bread at the local lake are some of their earliest and most cherished memories. It allowed us to connect with nature, bond with our families and feel as though we were giving back to the wildlife that enriched our neighborhoods and countrysides. Sadly though, this pastime of ours might not have been as altruistic as originally intended. Just as nutritionists have shown that refined, starchy foods make us lethargic and unhealthy, some animal charities now confirm that starchy foods affect waterfowl the same way.
According to experts from two of Great Britain's most popular avian charities, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), waterfowl are becoming malnourished and bloated from the bread, chips and junk food continually being thrown their way by well-meaning families. Aside from distracting them from their natural diet of seeds and grain, these unnatural foods are giving them - among numerous other health concerns - 'Angel Wing,' an incurable growth in the last joint of the wing that limits their ability to flee from pike, cats, foxes and other predators.
"[B]read, and in particular white bread, is of very poor nutritional quality," said Martin Brown, animal health officer at the WWT. "Too much of it can lead to nutritional disease and an increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In park lakes, birds can become hooked on bread and they start to prefer it to proper food. It bulks them out."
"Food thrown into the water, but not eaten, can also cause difficulties with nutrient build-up in the water, especially in closed water like ponds and lakes," added Grahame Madge of the RSPB. "People think they are doing a lovely thing by feeding the ducks some bread, but they forget they could be one of 20 people doing the same thing every day."
What waterfowl really eat (and why we still shouldn't feed them)
Brown and Madge's conclusions shouldn't surprise anyone who is already aware of the devastating impact that refined carbs and wheat products have on our bodies. Low in nutrition, high on the glycemic index, addictive and often rich in gluten, it is inevitable that these toxic foods - found nowhere in nature - will impact wildlife in the same manner as ourselves.
The natural diet of waterfowl is grain, seeds, small plants and insects such as earthworms and mealworms. Most of these foods are found in the water-based habitats in which they live, and wild waterfowl, being expert foragers, have little difficulty fending for themselves. Sadly though, feeding them any food (including their natural diet) increases their dependence on us for sustenance, thereby blunting their survival instincts and inhibiting their inclination towards migration. Consequently, it is wise for families to avoid feeding waterfowl altogether and to favor a more passive and spectator-based role when enjoying nature.
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.