Please feed swans - bread is OK!

Photo of underweight baby swans
OK to feed bread flyer
Statement by The Queen's Swan Marker

Message from The Swan Sanctuary : Now more than ever our swans and other water birds need you. Sadly with many parks instigating a no bread policy, with no grass to graze on and little natural water vegetation it means the many have gone hungry this summer. Lots of the juvenile swans, geese and ducks we have begun to admit this autumn are seriously underweight and malnourished. Many of these stunted little chaps will not reach their full size potential as the damage has already been done. Families are moving off earlier this autumn in search of better feeding grounds. This means we have had whole families caught up in territorial disputes as they land in other families territories.

Swans eat a variety of foods and lots you might have at home.
-A cheap loaf of bread from your local shop or supermarket or even the last few slices that you wouldn’t eat from your loaf at home (as long as it isn’t mouldy) is fine to feed.
-Soft green leaves (salad, spinach )
- cereals (cornflakes bran flakes)
They also like wheat or corn including sweetcorn. There are lots of specialist foods available too but they are not always in everyone’s budget.

It is also important to note that angel wing is a birth defect and can not be developed later in life. Bread is fine to feed as part of a varied diet so going and feeding them bread is a great help at the moment with food so scarce.

And remember, always best to feed water birds on water. They’re are safer from dogs etc.

UPDATE!! As many of you know there has been a lot of debate about feeding swans and other waterfowl bread. We have always maintained that feeding them bread is fine, Today we received a this statement from The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber, MVO -

‘There has been a great deal of press coverage in recent months regarding the ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign which is confusing many members of the public who like to feed swans. Supporters of the campaign claim that bread should not be fed to swans on the grounds that it is bad for them. This is not correct. Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects. While bread may not be the best dietary option for swans compared to their natural food such as river weed, it has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them to survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.

There is no good reason not to feed bread to swans, provided it is not mouldy. Most households have surplus bread and children have always enjoyed feeding swans with their parents. The ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign is already having a deleterious impact upon the swan population; I am receiving reports of underweight cygnets and adult birds, and a number of swans from large flocks have begun to wander into roads in search of food. This poses the further risk of swans being hit by vehicles. Malnutrition also increases their vulnerability to fatal diseases like avian-flu which has caused the deaths of many mute swans and other waterfowl in the past.

Furthermore, there have been statements made in the media claiming that feeding bread causes angel-wing in swans. Angel-wing is a condition where a cygnet develops a deformed wing. Professor Christopher Perrins, LVO, FRS of the Department of Zoology at Oxford University stated, ‘There is no evidence of a connection between feeding bread and angel-wing; at least some cygnets develop this condition without ever having seen any bread’.

I therefore encourage members of the public to continue feeding swans to help improve their chances of survival, especially through the winter.’

Support Your Swans - The Bread Myth Busted
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