Don't Feed the Ducks

two ducks

Everyone loves seeing ducks in area ponds. Unfortunately, feeding those ducks can cause a multitude of problems ranging from malnutrition to water pollution. Please help Addison keep the ducks and the environment healthy by not feeding area ducks.


In natural settings, waterfowl seek and feed on a variety of nutritious foods such as aquatic plants, natural grains, and invertebrates. Their feeding habits help maintain a balance between the animals and their natural habitat. This delicate balance is compromised by hand feeding, which is physically harmful to birds and one of the primary causes of malnutrition. Many of the items commonly used to feed waterfowl (bread, corn, popcorn, etc.) are low in protein and are very poor substitutes for natural foods. Visible symptoms of poor nutrition and advanced stages of starvation are often seen at artificial feeding sites and include:

  • Low energy and muscle deterioration.
  • Development of deformed wings in young birds.
  • Loss of flight later in life.
  • Lowered ability to avoid predators. 
  • A decrease in successful reproduction.
  • Lowered life expectancy.


When ducks and geese feed on scattered corn or bread, they eat in the same place where they defecate, which is not healthy for the birds or the community. Lowered nutrition combined with overpopulation and artificial feeding allow a disease to spread more quickly, potentially infecting thousands of birds with fatal diseases such as Duck Virus Enteritis, Avian Influenza, and Avian Botulism. Although these diseases have always existed in waterfowl populations, the risks increase when bird populations become concentrated at feeding sites.

Water Pollution

People will often feed ducks or swans at the local pond. This not only causes a nuisance situation with birds begging for and stealing food but also contributes significantly to water pollution in the form of fecal coliform bacteria. Excess nutrients in ponds caused by unnatural numbers of waterfowl droppings can result in water-quality problems such as summer algal blooms. Where waterfowl congregate to feed, E-coli counts can swell to levels that make the water detrimental to other aquatic plants and animals.

Environmental degradation

Waterfowl naturally congregate in wetlands, when and where natural foods are plentiful. However, artificial feeding attracts birds in unnatural numbers, beyond natural food and water supplies, and frequently in numbers beyond what people will tolerate. Over-grazed and badly-eroded lawns, parks, and school playing fields are often the results of overcrowding. High concentrations of birds cause:

  • Overgrazing of vegetation leading to soil erosion.
  • Degradation of the landscape making it undesirable for other species and unsightly for humans.
  • Unsanitary conditions due to large quantities of bird feces.


Waterfowl, particularly Canadian geese and mallards, will congregate in areas with abundant food and space. Unfortunately, hand feeding can cause birds to become concentrated in small urban areas that are incapable of supporting large numbers of birds. The birds then become dependent upon humans for food and can become nuisance animals. Some species, particularly mute swans, can become aggressive and may need to be removed. Feeding alters normal migration patterns of waterfowl by shortening or even eliminating them. Ducks, reluctant to leave in the winter, may not survive the sudden cold. Waterfowl can rapidly become conditioned to, and dependent on, handouts. Fed ducks and geese behave differently. They become more aggressive and eventually lose their wariness of humans. Some will not survive because they can't compete.


Feeding Ducks in Addison is prohibited by Ord. No. 009-008, § 1.A.3, 4-28-09.

For more information on the consequences of feeding waterfowl, please review the following resources: