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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

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

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2 Days ago

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jb
13 Days ago

I live in the city. There are many pigeons here. I see people feeding them all the time. One made a nest in the gutter of the building next door. I could see it from one of my windows. I watched it to see what would happen. After the eggs hatched the pigeon threw one out of the nest. When I went to take a closer look. The little bird had a deformed wing. After that I watched the nest more closely. One day I saw the mother flying back and forth from the nest to the ground and to several trees. I realized it was getting food for its babies. And feeding it their natural diet of bugs. After that the mother would go to find bread for herself. But she never never took any to her chicks. I went on a crusade to let people know especially those who think they are doing the birds a favor. They don\'t listen.


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Ernie
1 Months Ago

If little scientific study has been done how do they know what is causing this issue? It\'s not like these birds spend their entire day waiting for someone to show up with bread. They still forage for themselves. Is feeding bread to fowl good for them? Probably not but without ACTUAL research into this condition, I find it hard to believe that bread is the sole perpetrator.


Reply
Dean
19 Jan 2018

I think you\'re right Ernie. I just stumbled on this web site and already my BS meter is starting to red line.

Judi Lauriat
1 Months Ago

Another reason not to feed any birds bread products: it can cause major dietary issues. I worked as a wild bird rehabilitator for many years, and on occasion I would get a bird on the verge of starving to death. The bird would be otherwise healthy, with a full crop (the first part of a bird\'s digestive system). But when I would further inspect the bird, it would be almost skeletal. That full crop would be impacted with bread, unable to digest it. That bird would be starving to death with a full belly! Since the crop was impacted, no other food could be ingested. If we got to the bird in time, we would be able to use an eye dropper full of vegetable oil, which \'slicked up the way\' for the bread to pass through the bird (at an amazingly short time!). We would then feed the bird its regular diet until it had gained sufficient weight, then release it. Never feed any bird bread - ever.


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Joey
20 Jan 2018

Perhaps the same can be said for humans ...

melanie shepherd
26 Jan 2018

I\'ve been told that the bread goes sour in their crops

M
1 Months Ago

IT\'s so tempting to " feed the ducks" in a park........ but it\'s a no, no ! Maybe local council approved volunteers could sell appropriate food in small bags to those, wishing to feed the birds.


Reply
melanie shepherd
26 Jan 2018

Yes that is a good idea and for those that know there are ducks in the park and more than likely gonna feed the birds, why not buy a packet of the right food - its not all that expensive

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Sarah
2 Months Ago

GET YOUR EX BACK BEFORE CHRISTMAS,URGENT EFFECTIVE LOVE-SPELL TO GET YOUR EX LOVER BACK FAST.
I am Sarah from USA, after 9 years of marriage with my husband,
he divorced me and brought in another lady, i did all i could to get him back
but all proved abortive, I was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a
website that suggested that Dr Unity can help get ex back fast. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told
me what to do and i did it then he did a (Love spell) for me.
28 hours later, my husband really called me and told me that he miss me and the kids so much,
So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,
and for the pain he caused me and the kids. Then from that day,
our Marriage was now stronger than how it were before, All thanks to Dr Unity. he is so powerful and i decided
to share my story on the internet that Dr.Unity real and powerful spell caster who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble,
if you are here and you need your
Ex back or your husband moved to another woman, do not cry anymore, contact this powerful spell caster now.
Here’s his contact: Email him at: [email protected] ,
you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348071622464 ,
you can also visit his website: https://unityspelltempe.blogspot.com .


Reply


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