In the age of social media, it doesn’t take much to cause a schism — and the latest divisive topic is that favorite of toddlers everywhere, the duck. Specifically, whether it’s a good idea to feed it bread.
A Facebook post showing a sign asking passersby to feed bread to ducks in a park in Buxton, England has sparked fierce debate online.
The original post of the sign, which claimed that some birds were “dying of starvation” because people had stopped feeding them bread, was shared more than 17,000 times before it was deleted, BBC News reported. The park’s managers said they were not responsible for the sign, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, the image was reposted on Reddit under the “I’m confused about duck diet now” thread — which was upvoted more than 39,000 times and prompted lively discussion about whether the birds should, in fact, eat bread.
And it turns out that even experts can’t agree fully on the matter.
“Bread in itself is not the best food to give waterfowl as it fills them up without giving them the nutrients they need,” a spokesperson for the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) told CNN in a statement.
“We recommend people instead give small amounts of grain such as wheat, corn or bird seed, plus fresh chopped greens like cabbage or spinach, as these will supplement the birds’ natural diet and help provide the birds with the necessary nutrients to keep them healthy.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), however, told CNN in a statement that only a small amount of bread should be given to birds, and that people could also feed ducks and swans with sweetcorn, porridge oats, defrosted frozen peas, bird seed and crumbled cookies.
“Just like us, birds need a varied diet to stay healthy,” a spokesperson for the RSPB said in a statement.
“Although ducks and swans can digest all types of bread, too much can leave them feeling full without giving them all of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need,” they added.
Meanwhile, the Canal and River Trust said that bread “could lead to malnutrition” in ducks and can also create problems for waterways.
“Uneaten soggy bread can cause a build-up of bad nutrients which can lead to greater algal growth, spread disease and encourage pests such as rats,” the organization added.
So it seems that, for ducks as for humans, a little bit of what you fancy does you good. But too much will leave you feeling fowl.