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Print

Experts: Bread bad for wild birds

December 14, 2008 at 03:58 PM

EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—Some people are mangling the waterfowl at Eugene’s Alton Baker Park.

The weapon?

Bread.

Bird experts say they’re seeing cases of a condition called “angel wing” at the park.

The condition is marked by a deformed wing and spindly feathers that poke out at right angles. It’s a result of a poor diet, such as calorie-rich breads, that causes feathers to develop faster than the bones.

“Bread is bad, bad, bad,” said Michele Goodman of the Webbed Foot Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic in Connecticut. “Bread is bird junk food.”

Bandages and physical therapy can correct the condition in young birds, but it is incurable in adults. Affected birds can’t fly.

A sign at the park explains the prevalence of the condition, and plans call for placards to warn against feeding the birds.

Feeding them might entail a misdemeanor citation or a month ban from the park.

“I don’t know if that would ever happen or n ot,” said Rob Hallett, turf and grounds supervisor for the city of Eugene’s Parks and Open Space Division. “What we’re really trying to do is educate the public.”

Feeding the waterfowl can cause other problems.

Goodman said handouts such as whole slices of bread, pizza crusts and bagels can actually cause birds to choke to death. Geese can act aggressively if they come to expect humans to feed them. And birds used to human food can suffer when the humans stay inside during bad weather.

The park is actually trying to get rid of one species, white geese, a domesticated bird raised for meat, eggs and down that probably came from abandoned animals.

The plan is to put more vegetation around the water’s edge. Hallett said geese like an unobstructed view of their surrounding to keep a close eye on potential predators.

Interrupting their line of sight with trees and vegetation could persuade them to find a new home. Work may begin next year.

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