Waterfowl Impacts

Waterfowl Impacts on Water Quality

Many people enjoy feeding the birds at local waterfronts as an opportunity to be close to wildlife. Unfortunately, feeding waterfowl can hurt both the birds and their environment. Feeding disturbs the birds from normal foraging and may disrupt their ability to find suitable food. Interfering with this behaviour can disrupt the whole ecosystem by changing interactions these birds have with their offspring, their predators and their prey.

Consequences of Feeding Waterfowl

Feeding wildlife, like ducks, geese and gulls causes them direct harm. The following are reasons why feeding waterfowl is not good for them:

    • Food, such as bread, has little nutritional value for waterfowl which makes them vulnerable to malnutrition by falsely feeling full
    • Waterfowl babies will not receive enough nutrition to grow properly from most human derived food
    • Overcrowding at habituated feeding sites causes heightened aggression, increased spread of disease and can interfere with opportunities to access healthier food options
    • An increase of food availability can also delay bird migration

Feeding waterfowl negatively impacts their habitat, causing or contributing to:

  • Poor localized water quality from excessive fecal matter in water, making it unsafe to swim due to bacteria like E. coli and parasites like the snail larvae that cause swimmer’s itch
  • Harmful algae blooms that kills off fish, livestock, pets, and native plants
  • Bank erosion by trampling and overgrazing plants
  • Attracting pests like rats or insects, which can cause a health risk to people and pets

Alternative ways to Care for Waterfowl

In order to allow these animals to live a healthier, happier life please consider taking part in the following activities instead:

  • Bring binoculars to the park to get a good view of the animals
  • Respect the bird’s natural behaviours by giving them the space they need
  • Take pictures so you can enjoy the beauty of nature even when you’re at home
  • Learn fun facts about the waterfowl below;

By not feeding the waterfowl you are helping the ecosystem function more sustainably and contributing to the health of these beautiful birds and water quality. Protecting and restoring water quality is important in maintaining the heath of waterfowl, the environment, and people.

Where can I Learn More?

If you’d like to learn more about the impacts of feeding waterfowl please see these websites.


Last edited: August 5, 2022.