TO feed or not to feed – bread to the ducks that is.
Debate is raging over the health benefits or otherwise of feeding of bread to swans and ducks on the Avon.
Residents have taken to social media to voice concern over the amount of bread left along the banks of the river for its web-footed wildlife.
Their concerns are not unfounded as organisations such as the RSPB and the Canal & River Trust have warned feeding bread to ducks, geese and swans can cause them health problems.
RSPB spokesperson Gemma Hogg said: “Feeding ducks bread is bad in that it lacks nutritional value.
“It’s the same as if a human ate a loaf of bread – they would feel full, but it wouldn’t be good for them.”
She added the lack of nutrients could result in a deformity known as ‘Angel Wing,’ which leaves birds unable to fly away from predators.
As well as health risks, the uneaten bread can cause a build up of algae and spread disease.
Rather than deter animal lovers from a favourite past time, the Canal and River Trust – which says over six million loaves of bread a year are tossed in waterways across England and Wales – suggest other foods might fare better for water-fowl. Alternatives include bird seed, cooked pasta and rice, soft fruit, and lettuce.
Although former Stratford mayor Cyril Bennis – who has cared and nurtured the swan population in Stratford back to health over recent years –
was less concerned.
Mr Bennis said: “It’s because it encourages too many of them rather than health issues. But I would rather people come and enjoy the river and feed the ducks.”
While there is no mention of not feeding swans or ducks on the Avon, there are signs beside the river asking visitors not to feed geese.
Visit canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/our-campaigns to find out more.