Ask A Naturalist: Is it okay to feed ducks and geese?

July 30, 2020

Written by Sara Tabatabai

A group of mallards hang out in a park "Family of geese" by elliottzone is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Question: Is it alright to feed ducks and geese?

Answer: The short answer is no.

Often times, we may forget that these birds are wild animals and that it is unwise to feed any wild animal doing so is detrimental to both their health and behavior. As much as it may be fun to feed ducks, geese, and other birds, doing so creates many problems for the birds, the environment, and even to humans. Usually, humans give these animals bread and crackers, both of which are not found naturally in the wild and therefore not a healthy part of their diet. Studies have also showed that these birds also consume donuts, pastries, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, cookies, and cereal which are foods that would even be unhealthy for people to eat on a daily basis

Feeding ducks and geese encourages them to concentrate in areas they shouldn’t and stay there. Naturally, they will find their own natural food and fly to a new location in search for more. This concentration of large flocks also creates unnecessary and stressful competition for food. This could lead to the birds become aggressive with each other and even towards people. It could also cause these birds to become more susceptible to disease.

Feeding also disrupts their natural life cycle by allowing weak birds to survive and reproduce. Not only can this diminish the entire species, but it can also cause too much environmental stress when populations become larger than it can support.

Canada geese and goslings at the edge of city pond "Family of geese" by elliottzone is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There is also the increased risk to human health. Again, these birds can become aggressive when they anticipate food handed them from people. They begin to become more dependent on receiving food than finding food for themselves that they often approach humans expecting to be fed. There is also an increase in fecal matter from unnatural concentrations of waterfowl that can negatively affect both water quality and to human health.

Next time you’re outdoors and see ducks or geese, please refrain from feeding them. They have survived long before humans started offering them food and will continue to thrive on their own when left alone. Thank you for helping protect our local wildlife!


Click to watch video - Ducks on on a pond 

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Got paper lying around? Try your hand at folding a paper duck by following this simple step-by-step tutorial!  

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Instead of feeding ducks and other birds, watch them from a safe distance. Use a pair of binoculars to observe their details and/or use a camera to take photos! You can also carry a journal to draw and/or write about your encounters with these amazing animals! 

More Resources

Get more details on why we shouldn’t feed birds and waterfowl here on the Massachusetts Audubon site!