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Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

STOP 'feeding' the ducks

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Sorry for the silence here at Tet Zoo - Eotyrannus is keeping me busy, and no time for blog-writing. In desperation, I wanted to share this, originally posted on ver 2 in 2009.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Britain there is a very entrenched tradition of ‘feeding the ducks’. People go on walks (usually at the weekend) to ponds or lakes, and they take with them bagfuls of bread (sometimes even whole loaves). They then proceed to throw all the bread into the water. After a while the ducks and other birds at the pond or lake get bored or full, and they stop eating it (see photo, taken over the weekend at Southampton Common’s Cemetary Lake). Then more people come and throw in more bread. More people come, and they throw in more bread. Then more, and so on and on. On any given day, the most popular ‘duck ponds’ are polluted by, literally, kilos of bread.

Tame Brown rat, photographed right next to the lake shown in the photo above.

By now it’s well known that this behaviour is damaging to the ducks, and also to the welfare of ponds and lakes. Bread is bad for ducks as, apparently, they have trouble digesting it. As a result of all that rotting bread, and of the loads of droppings produced by an unnaturally high concentration of ducks, water quality degrades so much that the pond dies. The most popular ‘duck ponds’ are all entirely devoid of macroscopic life: no plants except for algae, and certainly no animals. Rats must think all of this is great, as whole families can usually be found living adjacent to these ponds. They become tame and unafraid of people and live on nothing but bread.

I know that the people who ‘feed the ducks’ think that they’re being kind. It’s also, for many people, one of the few (perhaps the only) interactions they have with wild animals. But you don’t have to have a phd in zoology to see that it’s a crap idea, and that it’s really, really, really time to stop.

Remember to follow me on twitter (@TetZoo) - in fact, I've been live-tweeting progress on the Eotyrannus monograph at #Eotyrannus. Tomorrow (Jan 21st) is Tet Zoo's birthday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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