While many people consider feeding geese and ducks a family tradition, doing so can have negative effects for the birds, other animals, people, and the environment.
Foods commonly fed to geese and ducks, such as bread, popcorn, and crackers, are unhealthy and lack nutrients. Birds that are fed by humans will rely on unhealthy foods and not learn to forage for healthy ones, such as plants and insects, that have the nutrients they need for proper nutrition, growth, and development. This can lead to vitamin, protein, and calcium deficiencies, which can result in weak bones, liver disease, and wing problems that can affect their ability to fly.
Birds that are fed by humans lose their natural fear of people, which can cause them to become aggressive. They also compete with each other for food, and the younger and smaller birds may be left without enough to eat.
If geese have a plentiful supply of food readily available, they will lay more eggs. This can cause the area to become overcrowded, which can cause them to become a nuisance to humans and lead to territorial aggression and predation.
Feeding wild geese and ducks can affect other species. Uneaten bread can rot, which can lead to growth of algae and fungus in the pond or lake. That can pollute the water, affecting the health of fish and other wildlife.
Feeding geese and ducks can contribute to the spread of many diseases, including parasites, viruses, and bacteria such as salmonella, through overpopulation. Feeding birds bread can also increase the amount of feces they produce, which can spread disease. Uneaten bread can also attract rats, mice, and insects, which can spread illness.
If you enjoy spending time with wildlife, you can certainly go to a local lake or pond to see ducks or geese, but consider the risks to the birds, the environment, and other animals that could come from feeding them.