Should we feed bread?

There has been a big debate about feeding bread in recent years, with people on either side of the debate holding very strong opinions and seeking to resolve the matter one way or the other.

The world is rather more complicated than that, and the following may help you to decide what is best for you and the swans in your particular locality.

If you believe that wildlife has to find its own food or die, then there is no debate.

If you believe that wildlife is having a hard time because of the way the environment has been altered and degraded, then the issue is how best to help.

Bread can be a life saver. It would be very wrong to ban one foodstuff (bread) without ensuring that enough people with enough money will feed enough other things to provide a sufficient intake of food to maintain health where natural supplies are inadequate. Seeded bread in particular has useful oils and wholemeal has fibre.

However, there are problems with bread. 

  • Bread isn’t very nutritious.

  • It has a short shelf life, so it can soon go mouldy if the swans don’t eat it all. 

  • Some bread is very soft, disintegrating as it hits the water, so much of it is lost to the swans.  

  • Bread goes through swans very quickly, so they are soon hungry again. 

  • If a lot of people give bread to a few swans, it can make a great mess especially in small ponds.

  • It is also attractive to gulls, which cause quite a nuisance factor in Worcester and other cities. 

Therefore particular care is needed if feeding bread.  It can be part of a mixed diet, but should not be the whole diet. Rather than wasting resources growing wheat to bake bread to throw into a river, it would make more sense for swans to be given the wheat in the first place, whilst we waste less food!

For more information on the feeding of bread to swans, you can read a statement on the subject by The Queen’s Swan Marker, David Barber, MVO, endorsed by Professor Christopher Perrins of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at Oxford University here.