St Maurice’s Pond is an excellent spot to see new life this summer. Lots of different birds are currently raising their young; mallards, tufted ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and many more. Feeding and watching waterfowl is a good wellbeing activity and is known to help with anxiety and depression. But how can we ensure we are feeding them the right things?

Whether or not it’s ok to feed bread to swans is a surprisingly divisive debate. Swans will readily eat bread, they love bread and indeed it could be argued that bread is better than nothing if they are going hungry …

However, bread lacks the essential nutrients a swan needs to be healthy. Similarly, for us humans, we love biscuits, and biscuits are better than nothing if we were starving, but we couldn’t survive on them for long.  Waterfowl will often fill up on bread then not seek out food containing the proper nutrition. Bread is also known to cause harmful algae on ponds that can be detrimental to wildlife.

That’s not to say you should stop feeding your local waterfowl. There are many healthier alternatives. Swans, ducks and geese are predominantly vegetarian and some good choices to feed them are birdseed, oats, lettuce, sweetcorn, peas and also carrot and potato peelings. Some pet stores also sell specialised pellets for swans and ducks. These pellets float on the water like bread which is good because it keeps the swans off the bank where they are vulnerable to dogs.

It’s important to note that it might take a while for the birds to recognise these strange new gifts as food. You might have to be patient and try a few different foods – but it will be worth it in the end to keep them healthy, and you happy!


What a handsome chap. Mute Swan © Katie Brown/Scottish Wildlife Trust

Katie Brown