London council pushes for healthier diet for park ducks

Spinach, lettuce and brown rice are in and mouldy bread is out for ducks and geese in Havering Borough Council's parks.

Duck. Image: MorgueFile
Duck. Image: MorgueFile

The council's new "Satis-quack-tion Guaranteed" campaign aims to teach the public what they should and shouldn't feed local waterfowl, after several incidents where birds have died.

Instead of bread, the public is now encouraged to feed the ducks with home cupboard staples such as uncooked brown rice, linseed and plain oats, bird seeds and corn, and greens such as lettuce and spinach. Some of these items will be for sale in local cafes within the parks.

Wildfowl at some of the borough's parks, such as Harrow Lodge and Raphael Parks, have suffered fatal consequences due to botulism - a severe form of food poisoning. Uneaten scraps of mouldy bread can harm oxygen levels in the water in the lake and causes an increase in harmful bacteria.

This, together with persistent spells of hot weather, can be a source of the disease and can also attract vermin. Overfeeding ducks can also lead to a build-up of droppings, causing the growth of more algae, which can deprive the water of oxygen and be a source of botulism.

The bread also fills duck's stomachs, making them feel full so that they don't eat the grains and get the nutrients they are supposed to. 

High-calorie diets can give the birds a syndrome called 'Angel Wing', where the joints in the wing become twisted and the birds are no longer able to fly.

Educational posters and neighbourhood leaflets have helped spread the message. 

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