Welcome Green Monsters! We're your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet.
Download food monster: the biggest, baddest, yummiest vegan food app!


For many, feeding birds at ponds and parks is a cherished childhood memory; one they lovingly recreate for their children and grandchildren. Tragically, thousands of birds die annually due to a condition overwhelmingly caused by people who don’t know this beloved activity can be deadly.

What is Angel Wing?

“Angel wing” is a deformity commonly found in ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl. There has been little scientific study done on the condition, yet most wildlife and waterfowl experts agree the overwhelming cause of angel wing is an unhealthily-high protein and/or carbohydrate-based diet. The disorder causes the last joint in one or both wings to unnaturally twist outward, rather than lying flat against the bird’s body.

Feeding White Bread to Wild Birds is Killing ThemDeborah Robbins Millman

Birds with angel wing are stripped of their ability to fly and therefore their main method of defense. Since the affected birds are unable to escape predators, they are often maimed or killed by them. Additionally, when life-threatening weather conditions develop, they are unable to fly away to safety, and instead starve, succumbing to injuries or freeze to death.

How Do Birds Contract Angel Wing?

The birds most likely to contract angel wing are those residing in parks, on ponds, and in public areas where people feed them unhealthy food. As they grow, young birds subsisting on white bread and other inappropriate food sources can develop issues preventing their bones from forming normally, resulting in angel wing.

Feeding White Bread to Wild Birds is Killing ThemMichaels: Ross Michaels

Because birds grow much more rapidly than humans, each day’s nutrition has a direct effect on development. Even a few days of improper eating can cause irreparable damage. Studies suggest feeding waterfowl an unhealthy diet can accelerate growth, causing the wing to develop too quickly for proper bone support.

How Is Angel Wing Treated?

Cape Wildlife Center, a Barnstable, Mass.-based wildlife rehabilitation center operated by The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, treats about 2,000 animals per year, including a significant number of geese, swans, and ducks suffering from angel wing. The highest incidence of admission is late fall or winter when affected birds have grown enough for the condition to be fully and painfully apparent.

If the patients treated are very young, the condition can sometimes be minimized by splinting and repositioning the affected wing while feeding them a proper diet for optimal growth. Even then, a full recovery is not guaranteed. For rehabilitators, it can be emotionally taxing to see birds denied the chance for a full and productive life because people didn’t know about the dangers of improperly feeding them.

Feeding White Bread to Wild Birds is Killing ThemDeborah Robbins Millman

For adult birds, the condition is almost always a death sentence: They are struck by cars, killed by predators, or die from nutritional deficiencies or weather extremes. Even birds who are rescued and brought to a rehabilitation center will surely die if set free. They must be placed with a sanctuary for the remainder of their life, and there are not enough sanctuaries to meet demand.

How Can I Help?

Angel wing can be drastically reduced by not feeding birds “people food,” including white bread, popcorn, or crackers. This simple rule will literally save lives.

This doesn’t mean the enjoyable and bonding activity of feeding birds must be eliminated – you just have to identify areas where feeding waterfowl is supported, and offer the birds the right food to sustain their health.

Nutritious waterfowl feed or duck pellets are inexpensive, easy to carry, and can be purchased at most feed stores. Seedless grapes cut in half, shredded kale, Swiss chard or romaine lettuce, and grains, including wheat, barley and oats, are all healthy food sources that will appeal to most waterfowl. Make sure anything you feed is bite-sized to avoid choking hazards.

Feeding wild birds a proper diet preserves a treasured family tradition while teaching children the importance of making choices that strengthen, rather than undercut, the human-animal bond. In this way, we will rear generations of people recognizing the necessity for responsible stewardship and celebrate the value of compassionate co-existence with wildlife.

Lead image source: Michaels: Ross Michaels

Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for our newsletter below!​

Browse through some recent posts below:

What is the Future for Marine Parks After ‘Blackfish’?

After 'Blackfish', What is the Future of the World's Marine Parks?

Is Declawing Your Cat a Crime? Some States Think it Should Be

Is Declawing Your Cat a Crime? Some States Think it Should Be

Here’s Proof Beagles Belong Snuggled on Laps Not in Labs (PHOTO)

Here's Proof Beagles Belong Snuggled on Laps Not in Labs (PHOTO)

What the Rescue of a Baby Orangutan Teaches Us About Our Snacks and the Illegal Pet Trade

What the Rescue of a Baby Orangutan Teaches Us About Our Snacks and the Illegal Pet Trade

Disclosure: One Green Planet accepts advertising, sponsorship, affiliate links and other forms of compensation, which may or may not influence the advertising content, topics or articles written on this site. Click here for more information.

329 comments on “Why Feeding White Bread to Wild Birds is Killing Them”

Click to add comment
Josie Harrop
14 Days ago

The header indicated white bread should not be given. However there is no mention of giving brown bread in the list of acceptable foods.
I am confused is brown bread ok? If I\'m confused I cant be the only one!

ge harding
21 Days ago

i feed bread soaked in water cut into smallsquares through winter i dont see any problem

Muriel Servaege
2 Months Ago

We can do swans and other birds a lot of harm if we give them anything to eat, not thinking of the consequences.

Susan Elchoufi
6 Months Ago

Salim El Choufi

Samon Gamon
6 Months Ago

Charles James Ivor Fisher it's that fucking duck!

Lars Miller
6 Months Ago

Megan Miller

Joanne Ehlers
6 Months Ago

I Remember reading that a long time ago

Mater Beesley
6 Months Ago


Jake Indigo
6 Months Ago

Chris Ayala

Julee McClelland
6 Months Ago

I had no idea. Have seen lots of geese at parks near me and fortunately have never seen one with "Angel wings". Now I will know if I ever again see anyone feeding ducks, geese or swans bread to tell them why this is a bad idea. Thank you for the info.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow us on

Do Not Show This Again


Submit to OneGreenPlanet

Terms & Conditions ×