Feeding waterfowl is bad for them and their habitat

15 January 2013

Feeding waterfowl does more harm than good (Photo: Bill Harding)

I have lost count of how many lakes and ponds I have consulted on where algal blooms had become entrenched as a result of ducks, geese and other waterfowl being “fed” by locals hurling in their stale bread and other bits and pieces – you know, the moms who take their kids to the pond in the afternoon, give them a bag of bread chunks and then let the children entertain themselves while the mothers catch up on the local gossip?

Waterfowl produce a lot of nutrients in their excreta, a surprising amount in fact.  Those familiar with the problem of eutrophication (if not, Droplets has lots of info on this) will know that in a contained waterbody the risk of noxious algal (blue-green algal) blooms is very likely.  An article published in the UK press today highlights the dangers of birds becoming overweight and stressed (much like a considerable portion of the human population!).

Fattening the waterfowl at Killingworth Lake. Source: Chronicle Live.co.uk

A swift clean-up operation will get under way at Killingworth Lake after overfeeding the swans and geese led to an explosion in the number of birds.  Swans and Canada geese are causing a menace and leaving faeces in public areas at the North Tyneside lake.  Members of the public are now being warned not to feed the birds, as it can cause them to become overweight and distressed and is thought to have brought wildfowl to the area in droves.

Swimming in rivers in the vicinity of Nelson’s City in New Zealand has been proclaimed risky as a result of stormwater contamination following recent rains.

A health warning remains in place for the lower Maitai River, below Collingwood Street Bridge and the Paremata Flats Reserve at Wakapuaka River, advising people not to swim there until further notice. These areas have been rated as ‘very poor’ in the past due to contamination from stormwater, and elevated levels of bacteria caused by livestock and birds, respectively.

And, in Adelaide, Australia, the algal bloom in the River Torrens remains a problem and keeps the river off-limits to all but boats.

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