Fortunately, whilst filming Ask Bill Oddie, the right moment to answer this question presented itself and Bill’s answer is plain and simple: “leave the loaf at home – not at the duck pond, please.” However, Bill recognizes that feeding the ducks is a great way to introduce children to nature...
“Well, for a start it won’t be just the ducks that go for the bread: Swans, Canada Geese, probably Coot and – most squabbly and screechy of all - Black Headed Gulls. All that flapping and quacking and honking can be a little bit alarming for a small child, but most of them get to love it and it’s a great way to start some basic birdwatching.”
“As for is bread bad for them? The answer is that it won’t do them any good. Scoffing too much of it can be harmful, especially white bread. Bread and water. Starvation rations for humans and certainly not a treat for birds. Brown bread is a bit less useless, especially if it has seeds on it, but it still isn’t nutritious to a duck or a goose no matter how eager they are to grab it.”
“Feeding the birds at the duck pond is much the same as feeding the birds in your garden. Ask yourself: what do these birds eat in the wild? What is their natural food? Insects, worms, caterpillars, seeds, berries, aquatic plants. That’s what they need. The real thing. If they can’t find enough, then we can help enormously by providing equivalents, substitutes, and supplements, but the ingredients must be natural. Bird food specialists like Haith’s - www.haiths.com the bird food masterchefs, if you will – can sometimes even improve on nature with special mixes - like Duck & Goose, dried mealworms and blends, but nothing is artificial or faked, and everything provides birds with good health and energy. Food for survival.”
Have fun at the park, but leave the bread in the bread bin is Bill Oddie’s message.
Bill Oddie's blog can be found at http://www.billoddiesbirdfood.co.uk/blog/