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Stop feeding bread to birds, says Bradford West Gwillimbury resident

Eating bread can prevent birds from flying and litter can complicate town’s stormwater management pond cleanup

A Bradford West Gwillimbury resident is urging people to stop feeding bread to ducks and Canada geese at local ponds due to “detrimental” health effects.

Kallie Jackson, of BWG, said she often stops near a stormwater pond near Langford Boulevard while walking her dogs to pick up stale or mouldy bread people have left behind to feed the birds.

“If I leave it there, I know it will cause harm. I can at least get that out of the way,” she said.

“I noticed that even when residents saw me cleaning up, they would simply wait until I was done then go litter the area with bread — often leaving the plastic bags behind tossed to the side — once I left.”

Birds that eat bread products can develop angel wing, a condition that prevents their bones from forming normally, stopping them from flying and making them more vulnerable to predators, according to One Green Planet.

“I don't find that talking to people when they are trying to entertain their kids and thinking they are just having a nice moment works very well, and I want to be a friendly neighbour, but it is frustrating knowing the facts and wishing you could help in someway,” said Jackson, a volunteer for Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre in Beeton.

She contacted the Town of BWG, which plans to add cautions about feeding birds to information boards it is installing near all of its almost 30 stormwater management ponds.

Not only can bread be harmful to the birds, it can complicate the town’s cleaning of the stormwater management ponds, which are not natural bodies of water, said Caleigh Clubine, the town’s community relations officer.

The signs will discourage people from feeding wildlife altogether and from using the ponds for recreation, such as skating or swimming.

“Our No. 1 goal with the signs will be to help people understand that stormwater ponds are human-made in order to give stormwater someplace to go after formerly absorbent land gets taken up with buildings and pavement,” Clubine said.

“Silt, sediment and litter — unfortunately sometimes deliberately/directly dumped into the ponds — build up over time. Therefore, the ponds need to be periodically cleaned out or after a while they no longer hold as much water as they need to.”

Without realizing this, some residents contact the town with concerns about crews cleaning out the ponds, she said.

“Their assumption is this is a pond (and) its primary purpose is habitat,” she said.

Despite not being built as a habitat for wildlife, Jackson said she has seen ducks, geese, herons and an otter in one stormwater management pond.

While new signage might not stop people from tossing bread and other food for the animals, Jackson said she hopes people will show more consideration.

“It’s another microcosm of we don’t care about our environment,” she said. “We have the capacity to learn. (Don’t) feed the birds, but if (you) do, choose something that would be less detrimental to their health.”

Safer options to feed birds:

  • Cut, seedless grapes
  • Cooked rice
  • Birdseed
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Chopped lettuce