Bread should not be on the ducks’ menu, stated the Trust. It was backed up by the RSPB, which warned bread did not provide the right nutrients and could possibly lead to the birds developing wing diseases. Furthermore, any bread that was uneaten got left in waterways, causing pollution and attracting rats.
With this in mind, my daughter and I set out for our nearest duckpond with a supply of corn to test the local ducks’ reaction and persuade them to eat more healthily.
Quickest to sample the new foodstuff was one of the resident muscovies. He seemed a satisfied customer, eating all that came his way. It took a little longer for the mallards to break from their sunbathing and put the corn to the test, but they eventually all appeared content.
In fact, the corn seemed to give the male mallards renewed energy, for they became a bit snappy, particularly with the sole female present.
We weren’t quite sure of the moorhens’ opinion. The full range of ages were present, adult, teenager and baby, and at first, they stayed in the pond, so we threw some in to them. The adults did seem to make one or two dives towards it – perhaps it was not a soft enough food for the youngsters? However, after a while, some moorhens came out on to the grassy area to stretch their legs and forage.
We noticed the male mallards were starting their summer moult, when they begin to look more like the females, but they could still fly.
Back at home, I checked through my photographs from our menu experiment, and realised what long, yellowy green legs and toes the moorhens have. I hadn’t appreciated that before just by watching them walk around.
Feeding the ducks is a pastime enjoyed by many people, young and not-so-young, and birds like mallards and muscovies are very confiding. Hopefully, the public will be persuaded to try giving some of the suggested alternative snacks to the ducks instead of bread. It’s important for our wildlife and for us to keep our waterways clean and free from pollution.
The newly recommeded meals include: corn, rice (cooked or uncooked), any type of birdseed, defrosted frozen peas, earthworms, mealworms, duck pellets, chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes, chopped vegetable trimmings or peelings, grapes sliced in two.