Is It Okay to Feed Ducks? Legality and Ethics

Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – 2554813

It’s fun to feed ducks, but is it ethical? Or even legal? Many people think that it’s harmless to feed ducks bread, but what feels like an innocent, kid-friendly outdoor activity can have a profoundly negative impact on the ducks themselves, and the environment.

If you want to see ducks, all you have to do is go to the lake with a few pieces of bread. Once they spot it, they will all come flocking over to eat happily out of your hand. Feeding ducks is fun, especially with kids, but is it actually allowed? Or even a good idea to begin with? In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know before deciding to feed the ducks. 

Is it Legal to Feed Ducks?

duck in lake
Even if it is legal to feed ducks in your state, disobeying signs can still lead to fines. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Free-Photos)

Every state has different laws, but it is not illegal in many places to feed ducks bread at a local park. One notable exception is California, which does expressly forbid citizens to feed ducks. 

Although it may not be illegal, many parks have signs that prohibit the feeding of ducks. If this is the case, and you disobey the rule, you can be fined whether or not it is illegal in your state. 

Note: It may be legal to feed ducks in some places, but it is still always illegal to feed non-game wildlife in national parks and protected preserves across the United States. 

Why You Shouldn’t Feed Ducks

feed ducks bread
Feeding ducks leads the them to lose their natural fear of people. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Gellinger)

Just because it might not be illegal to feed ducks in your state doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Feeding ducks bread is harmful for many reasons:

  • Most people feed ducks bread, but many also feed them whatever they happen to have with them, like peanuts, pretzels, potato chips, cookies, popcorn, etc. All of these are incredibly unhealthy for ducks.
  • When people feed them, the ducks lose their natural fear of people, leading them to gather in places that may be dangerous for them.
  • Birds are attracted to areas where people feed them, causing large numbers of birds to come together in places that can’t naturally support such a large population. 
  • Many people think that ducks rely on people to feed them, and would starve without us. But that isn’t true. Remember that ducks are wild animals, and know instinctually how to find food for themselves. 

Feeding Ducks: Endangering the Environment?

lake landscape
Feeding ducks bread can disrupt the whole ecosystem of a lake. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Strikers)

Feeding ducks bread is bad for the birds, and also harmful to the environment. 

  • Pieces of scrap bread that don’t get devoured quickly enough sink to the bottom of the lake. This can easily disrupt the balance of the entire body of water: the water becomes oversaturated with nutrients, leading to the growth of algae, which blocks sunlight from reaching the floor of the lake. That means that the plants living there can no longer carry out photosynthesis. Without sunlight, the plants can’t survive.
  • Unnaturally large gatherings of birds in one place lead to the spread of disease between flocks.
  • The increased amounts of food that the ducks are taking in leads to increased deposits of fecal matter, which can affect the quality of local water, and could even negatively affect human health.

This article has been translated from German to English by Christie Sacco. You can read the original here: Enten füttern: Warum das keine gute Idee ist

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