Are you killing the ducks with kindness?

Everyone loves ducks, well most people do anyway! And what do people like more then ducks? They love feeding ducks!! And how couldn't you when they are as cute as this little fellow?! But could you actually be killing them with kindness? Have a read of this great article put together by our Head Keeper Jason to re-think the duck feeding scene. "The feeding of ducks, in particular human foods like bread, can cause serious health and behavioural issues in individual birds. Bread does not provide ducks with the correct vitamins and nutrients that they require, but instead overloads them full of carbohydrates, proteins and salts. As a result ducks tend not to forage for their natural food, and often die at a younger age. The over-loading of carbs and proteins in younger ducks can lead to a condition known as "angel wing," where the wrist joints become distorted, resulting in permanent wing damage, loss of flight capabilities and therefore an early death, due to predators or not being able to feed correctly or migrate when food runs out in an area.

In addition to these impacts, old, stale, mouldy bread can harbour fungal spores. Ducks are susceptible to a condition called aspergillosis, which is caused by the build-up of fungal spores due to a suppressed immune system, which is most commonly caused by poor nutrition in wild ducks. Aspergillosis is fatal and can be spread to other birds, especially if it enters waterways. The feeding of ducks leads individual ducks to be de-sensitised to potential threats by taming, and this increases their chance of being hit by cars and attacked by dogs.

Many, and in some cases, all of the ducks that are getting fed around Tasmania are introduced species such as the Northern Mallard, Muscovy ducks and hybrid black-mallards. Mallards and Muscovy ducks have become established in several areas and are a feral species. These species out-compete native Tasmanian species such the Pacific Black Duck and Australian Wood Duck. Feeding non-native ducks allows them to grow faster, leading to both higher reproduction rates and greater duck survival rates. These increasing populations then move into native duck territories and begin to out-compete them for natural food sources and roosting sites. Areas where ducks are fed regularly soon become overcrowded, and other non-native species such as rats, mice, starlings and sparrows become attracted to the area also. This leads to increased disease transmission.

Possibly the least known issue is probably the greatest. The feral Northern mallard mentioned above is closely related to our native Pacific black duck. The two species can therefore cross breed to produce mallard-black duck hybrids. Purebred Pacific black ducks are rapidly becoming less common because of this interbreeding.

The next time you are visiting an area that is home to ducks, instead of feeding them, take a seat and watch them go about their daily business. Ducks can get up to all kinds of mischief, and we guarantee that watching them and trying to identify the different species of Tasmanian native ducks can be just as enjoyable for the family!"