by Carole Jorgensen

Why such a big deal about feeding birds at Woodland Park?

flock of yellow baby ducks in grass
Photo by Julissa Helmuth on

The Kalispell City Council recently passed an ordinance restricting the feeding of waterfowl in city parks. This was largely in response to problems said to be caused by the popular practice of feeding of migrant and domestic waterfowl in Woodland Park. What problems, you might ask? What is wrong with feeding those birds?  

The “food” most people feed to waterfowl provides inadequate nutrition. Like giving sugar to children, it keeps them from eating the seeds, grains, invertebrates and other plant foods essential for their health and growth. “People food” can cause birds to experience metabolic bone disease (MBD) and related calcium deficiencies necessary for eggs/offspring, clotting ability, cardiovascular and neuromuscular function, and a variety of other metabolic activities.

Birds dependent on improper food may be too weak to fly, defend themselves or find proper food. A wing deformity called angel wing can also occur with non-natural nutrition. Abnormal feeding can crowd birds into unhealthy “mobs”, affecting their behavior with other birds, increasing stress, and changing breeding behavior and making them vulnerable to predators. When the food leaves the birds (after they eat it) there are also issues—on your shoes, in the water, and polluting the pond where the birds live. This can increase disease—including diseases that affect humans and pets; attract rats and predators. The cross-breeding of the waterfowl at Woodland Park is also evident…and dangerous. 

We love to feed critters, but to do so comes with responsibility. When feeding changes behavior or causes unnatural concentrations, keeps birds from eating proper food, or causes pollution, that is a good reason to stop. Thanks for following the new guidelines at Woodland Park and enjoy the birds by watching them—not feeding them. (Thanks to the Wildlife Center, VA for some of this information.)