(Or Geese.  Or at least- don’t feed them bread.)

This is Spike. Hubby and I noticed him, while we were out in the park, catching Pokemon. (I know- shut up! I tried to resist.) We thought Spike had been hit by a car, so we called the park management. They connected us to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Spike has not been hit. Spike has a disease called Angel Wing. Angel Wing is a developmental deformity in waterfowl that causes one or both wings to stick out from the body, leaving the bird unable to fly. If caught early (say in ducklings or goslings), the deformity can be corrected. Usually- you bind the affected wing against the bird’s flank for a few days, and feed them a more bird-centric diet, and the problem will usually correct itself. But poor Spike was not caught in time. He has never been able to fly and WILL NEVER be able to fly.

Angel Wing is caused mostly by high calorie diets, specifically when the bird’s diet consists of too much human food. Bread, specifically. Male waterfowl are more susceptible to Angel Wing, than females, but both can get it. Most wild birds with Angel Wing do not live long. Since they cannot fly to get food (or migrate)- usually the winter temperatures will kill them. Angel Wing can be genetic, as fowls can have affected chicks over several broods.

So please do not feed bread to waterfowl. Wheat bread is okay (as it contains more protein), but please do it in moderation. If you are wondering what to feed them- most pet stores will have duck/goose feed. Buy a bag of it and keep it in your car. That will give them a more balanced diet, and help cut down on Angel Wing. If you don’t have a pet store near you- go to Amazon and type in duck feed. They have over a dozen different types of acceptable food that you can feed to your favorite waterfowl.

If you’re like me- I had no idea. When I was a kid- some parks actively encouraged you to feed the ducks bread. The ones that didn’t want the ducks hanging around all year had ‘No Feeding’ signs posted, but that was it. It wasn’t a matter of “Maybe bread is bad for them”; it was more of “we’re tired of cleaning up after them”. Every other park actively encouraged you to feed them. “Come for a walk- feed the ducks!” A few even had specialized duck feed, but for the most part- you brought bread, or bought it from the park.

As for Spike- he’s wouldn’t have been migratory, anyway. We have a large population of geese near where I live, and they live there year round. That’s probably why he has survived to adulthood with his wonky wings (yes- he has Angel Wing in BOTH wings). But he will never know the ins and outs of flying.

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