If bread is bad for birds, should I feed pigeons bread?

Why Most Bread Is Bad

Most typical sliced bread or sandwich bread is a poor food choice for birds. This bread is heavily processed and contains chemicals and preservatives that are not suitable for wild birds. Bread contains very little protein, which birds need to develop muscles and feathers, and it does not contain the fat birds need for energy. Instead, bread is primarily a carbohydrate that, while it will fill a bird's stomach and alleviate hunger, does not provide much nutrition. The same is true for similar bread-like products such as buns, bagels, crackers, chips, pretzels, cookies, cereal, and donuts.

When eaten excessively, bread will cause health problems for birds, including malnutrition and obesity. This is particularly prominent among young waterfowl in urban and suburban areas where ducklings and goslings may be fed tremendous amounts of bread. As these young birds fail to get the proper nutrients for healthy growth, they can develop deformed wings and legs, aggressive temperaments, poor circulation, and many other difficulties.

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Why shouldnt you feed birds bread

Answered By: Hugh Hughes Date: created: Oct 23 2020

Do not feed ducks bread. … Bread provides no nutrition for them, and they could end up being fat and starving at the same time. Birdseed, frozen corn or peas (thaw first), oats, and other greens (torn up small so they can eat them) provide the best nutritional value to them.

Asked By: Gabriel Martinez Date: created: Dec 26 2020

Can birds eat oatmeal

Answered By: Ashton Morgan Date: created: Sep 11 2021

Cereal: Stale or leftover cereal and oats, including rolled or quick oats, is a tasty bird treat. For the best nutrition and most attractiveness, offer birds cereal with lower sugar content and fewer artificial dyes.

Asked By: Samuel Richardson Date: created: Nov 17 2021

Fruit and vegetables

Vegetables, such as sweetcorn, lettuce and peas, and fruit, including apple and banana pieces, are great as a source of fibre and water. But they also provide essential vitamins.

The downside is that large quantities can cause stomach upset, especially fruit, but also vegetables high in carbohydrates, like carrots. Try to balance small amounts of these with seeds and nuts.

What Can I Feed Birds Instead of Bread?

Luckily, there are some excellent bird food options that don’t put them in harm’s way. Cracked corn, sunflower seeds, safflower, and peanuts are all excellent choices.

Feeding birds sunflower seeds. (Photo: CC0 Public
Feeding birds sunflower seeds. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash – Andrik Langfield)

Leftovers

Leftovers of the processed foods we like to eat – think french fries and pizza crusts – shouldn’t actually be in this list. They do for birds what fast food does for us: lots of energy, but with very little nutrition.

In our study, we found that leftovers were one of the top choices of people feeding ducks. But our advice – as with bread – is to avoid it altogether.

Bread Means Trouble for the Environment, Too

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If waterfowl are fed so much bread that some of it goes uneaten, the uneaten bread poses another problem. The bread can grow mold which can make ducks sick. It can also contribute to algae growth in the water, which can kill animals and spread disease. Algal blooms can also do damage to the water quality and native aquatic plants of the river or lake.

Extra bread doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if everyone takes their kids to see the ducks, all that bread can build up, especially if there aren’t too many ducks to begin with. If you want to feed the ducks but see bread floating in the water, it’s a good sign that the ducks have had their fill already. Try back another time, but bring something a little better than bread!

Leftover bread is also bad for them

If a bird lives in a pond or lake where they are commonly fed bread, other issues may arise. Bread that doesn’t get snapped up by clever beaks doesn’t just evaporate into the air. There’s no clean up crew. It settles into the water; the CWF also mentions that this can lead to a build up of algae in their environment. ABC Radio Perth reported on an even grimmer circumstance in which the higher nutrient level in the water created a bacteria in the soil that lead to avian botulism:

Nicole Davey, environmental coordinator at Belmont Council, said feeding bread to birds contributes to higher nutrient levels in the water, which in turn leads to an increase in the soil bacteria that causes avian botulism.

“So when the birds eat snails and worms that are in the mud, they become infected with the bacteria, when releases a toxin that causes them to become paralysed, and eventually they die,” she said.

You’re not just messing with the bird’s diet—you’re messing with their whole eco-system, and the other creatures great and small who are living there, too.

How to Give Birds Food

It’s also important to pay attention to how you feed birds. You can simply sprinkle nuts and seeds around your garden but this isn’t a good idea. Not only will the birds damage your lawn when they eat, but the food can attract unwanted visitors.

There are a number of different feeders you can get.

  • Some people like a flat top bird table. The food is placed on the top, and birds can sit on the top to feed. This is a simple way to feed birds, but food can be pushed off the edge if the table doesn’t have a rim.
  • If you want to give birds nuts and seeds, get a proper feeder which holds them. These can be hung from branches so the birds feel safe eating, and they also hold the food in place so it doesn’t spill.
  • Nectar feeding birds will need a proper nectar feeder. These are designed to hold the nectar safely in side and have special feeding slots for long beaks.
  • If you put out fat balls or suet blocks you will need the right size and shape of feeder. The blocks should slot in so that the birds can get to them, but they won’t fall out.

If you have more than one feeder, space them out around the garden. You will find more birds will come to eat if they have more room.

2. Free Food Isn’t All It’s Quacked Up to Be

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

In addition to the nutritional issues posed by abundant bread, too many handouts of any kind raise a wide range of problems for waterfowl. These include:

Overcrowding

Ducks and geese naturally find habitats that offer enough food, but handouts can lure large crowds to areas that wouldn't normally support them. Natural foods are also widely scattered, letting birds eat in relative privacy, while competition is often fierce and stressful at artificial feeding sites.

Disease

Too many birds means too many droppings. That’s a health risk, both in water and on land. Plus, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation points out, “diseases generally not transmissible in a wild setting find overcrowded and unsanitary conditions very favorable.”

Delayed Migration

Artificial feeding has been known to shorten or even eliminate migration patterns of waterfowl. They may be reluctant to leave a reliable food source despite the onset of winter, and then struggle to survive as temperatures fall — especially if the cold discourages their human feeders.

Expectations

Our gifts may also spur a few other negative changes in birds' behavior. When adult ducks become obsessed with free bread, for example, they may fail to give their ducklings a sufficient education in foraging, thus committing them to a life as beggars. Once birds are dependent on handouts, they tend to lose their fear of humans and behave more aggressively.

What is the Best Type of Bread to Feed Birds?

The best types of bread to feed birds are the ones that have grains, seeds, high fat and protein levels.  Check the ingredients label for seeds, nuts and grains before you buy it.

Multi-grain loaves of bread are high in fibre and are ideal for a bird’s digestive tract. For chicken owners, fibre can reduce feather pecking as this often happens due to a shortage of fibre.

Is It Ever Okay to Feed Bread to Birds?

To be brief: no. While the practice may seem benign, it doesn’t just harm individual birds or your local flock but feeding birds is also bad for the environment. Birds who are fed bread could become dependent upon human food, or could become aggressive if they lose their fear of humans.

Birds can be trusted to find their own food, and simply don’t require human food as a caloric supplement. While bird feeders with proper food only make a neutral impact, feeding bread to birds is actively harmful.

What food is good for birds?

The good news is we don’t have to stop feeding the birds in our backyards, we just need to feed them the right food—food that maximizes the nutrition they require to survive and thrive.

See ‘Quality Bird Seed and Clean Feeders Matter‘ for more information about healthy food you can provide for wild birds.

What to Feed Birds

The good news is we can stop harming birds by feeding them nutritious food. Food pellets and seeds are inexpensive and will provide nutrition. Seeds contain vital fat and protein that birds need in order to be nourished and thrive. As they are nutrient dense they are small and easy to keep in a coat pocket.

Grapes chopped in half and kale in small strips are great for most birds due to being bite-sized and nutritious. Whatever food you feed them it needs to be in small pieces for their mouths.

Do research in your local area to ensure that the food you feed the birds is needed and therefore beneficial. Different birds in different locations have different needs.

Seeds are a nutritious food to feed birds, picture
Seeds are a nutritious food to feed birds, pictured is my 5 seed oat cakes.

What about feeding bread to ducks and geese in the park?

Feeding ducks and geese in the park seems like such a benign activity. But, if we’re feeding them bread, we’re also robbing nourishment from them. For waterfowl, a daily diet of bread, crackers and other snack foods from well-meaning park visitors can also lead to tragedy. Angel Wing syndrome is just one heart-breaking example of what can happen when we feed our snacks and leftovers to water birds.

As for feeding wild ducks and geese, there is a great deal of debate as to whether we are doing them any favors by feeding them anything at all. However, there are alternative ways we can support their health. See this Audubon.com article, ‘Don’t Feed the Waterfowl‘.

When to Feed Bread to Birds

Above all, bread should never be offered regularly to birds. Just as candy is not suitable for a large part of a human’s diet, bread is “candy” to birds and should be only a rare treat rather than a regular meal, even when it has been enhanced with healthier spreads and toppings. Ideally, bread scraps should be even more restricted in spring and early summer when parent birds are feeding their nestlings. Similarly, in winter, offering a lot of bread will not give birds the best nutrition to survive harsh storms and cold temperatures. The best time to feed birds bread, though still only once in a while, is at the height of summer after young birds have fledged and there are many birds visiting feeders and taking advantage of abundant natural, nutritional food sources. At that time, offering a few bites of bread will be less harmful to the birds that take advantage of it.

Feeding birds bread is not the healthiest option, but when the bread has healthier ingredients for a bird-friendly sandwich, it can be a fun, rare treat to add to your backyard buffet.

Important note: the U.S. Department of Agriculture strongly discourages the feeding of wildlife, including birds, which can be ultimately be hazardous to both wildlife and humans.

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