Help keep our ducks and yourself healthy this winter

  |  Published: Oct 17th 2018
duck, courtesy Canal & River Trust

As the nation braces itself for the cold weather and shorter days so do the hundreds of thousands of ducks who live on a waterway cared for by the charity, Canal & River Trust. Today it’s urging the public to head down to their local canal, grab some fresh air and help our feathered friends this winter by feeding them healthy treats.

With shorter, darker days we all need to get outside and top up our vitamin D and ducks and other wild waterfowl need the public’s help to supplement their natural food source, when plants and flowers begin to die back and become scarcer.

But the waterways and wellbeing charity, which cares for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in England & Wales, is reminding people to do so responsibly by swapping white bread for healthier treats.

Every year millions of loaves of bread are thrown into canals and rivers up and down the country - potentially polluting the water and damaging the homes of hundreds of thousands of ducks and other waterfowl who live on the charity’s waterways.

Uneaten soggy bread can cause a build-up of bad nutrients which can lead to greater algae growth, spread disease and encourage pests such as rats. Throwing bread into a canal or river can create overcrowding of bird populations, as the birds will flock to the same location in search of their starchy treat.

Too many ducks or waterfowl in one place can stress the birds and lead to their habitats being damaged. It also creates excessive amounts of bird poo which is smelly and slippery underfoot.

Peter Birch, National Environment Policy Advisor for the charity Canal & River Trust, said: “This is the perfect time of year to get out with the family and enjoy the waterways but also help the hundreds of thousands of ducks who live on our canals and rivers. Ducks and other wild waterfowl need our support even more around this time of year to help supplement their natural food source, when plants and flowers begin to die back and become scarcer.

“But please do it sensibly. We’d like people to make a few simple changes on their visit to feed the ducks. Bread’s not great for a duck’s health as it’s nothing like their natural diet so don’t over feed them with large quantities of it. Try to vary what you give them and swap it for healthier more natural treats like oats, corn, defrosted frozen peas or cut up leftover veg. And exercise portion control!

“Don’t follow the crowds, spread the love, and visit a new family of ducks to prevent large quantities of food from clogging up the same places and potentially damaging the environment.”

Ducks will normally feed on insects and grass, but these are more difficult to find in the winter when the ground is often frozen. Leftover greens including kale, cabbage and lettuce are great alternatives.

Peter continued: “Your visit to the canal will be good for the ducks’ wellbeing and good for your wellbeing. We often go into a human hibernation and stay indoors more as winter approaches but this is a great way of getting the family out for some fresh air.”

To help families enjoy their time even more when visiting a waterway this autumn, the charity has created a free activity booklet which is full of helpful tips on how to care for our feathered friends and have fun at your local canal or river. To download your free guide visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/duck-guide

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