City of Reykjavík Advises Against Feeding Ducks Bread

Tjörnin Reykjavík Pond

The City of Reykjavík has warned residents against feeding bread to ducks at the Tjörnin pond. During the peak breeding season, which lasts until the end of June, feeding bread attracts seagulls that prey on ducklings.

Survival dependent largely upon predation

As noted in an announcement published on Reykjavík City’s website yesterday, the breeding season at the Tjörnin Pond in Central Reykjavík is now at its peak; the first ducklings are hatching. Given this, residents and travellers alike are asked to refrain from feeding bread to the ducks, as it attracts seagulls that tend to eat the young ducklings.

“Ducks have enough food at Tjörnin during the summer for themselves and their ducklings, making feeding unnecessary,” the announcement notes. “Many duck pairs, particularly mallards and tufted ducks, are currently at Tjörnin, along with other species. A significant number of ducklings can be expected this summer if the breeding season goes well.”

The announcement goes on to note that the survival of ducklings at Tjörnin largely depends on the availability of food and the extent of predation by lesser black-backed gulls.

“These gulls primarily come to Tjörnin to bathe, rest, and eat bread, but some specialise in preying on ducklings. Ceasing bread-feeding will likely reduce the number of gulls. It is, therefore, recommended that passersby stop feeding bread at Tjörnin during the breeding season.”

Excessive nutrient levels may lead to eutrophication

Another consequence of bread-feeding, the announcement notes, is the increase in nutrient levels in Tjörnin, both from the bread and the large number of birds it attracts. Excessive nutrient levels can lead to eutrophication, causing an overgrowth of blue-green algae, making the water very murky.

“In severe cases, a dense scum can form on the water surface, potentially causing toxic effects. Eutrophication is harmful to the ecosystem, negatively affecting plant and small animal life, and thereby the food supply for birds at Tjörnin, including ducklings. Bread feeding can thus negatively impact ducklings in two ways,” the announcement notes.

The City of Reykjavík encourages individuals to stop all bread-feeding from mid-May well into the autumn.

“There is enough food for ducks and other birds during the summer and into the fall. When it starts to get colder, it is fine to resume feeding the ducks, but bread should be avoided in favour of healthier options like grains, seeds, oats, leftover salad leaves, and cooked rice, which are better for both the ducks and the ecosystem.”

Don’t Feed Birds Bread in Summer, Says City of Reykjavík

Giving bread to ducklings on Reykjavík Pond could turn them into seagulls’ dinner, according to a notice from the City of Reykjavík. The pond (Tjörnin) is known for its vibrant birdlife, including ducks, swans, and geese, which both locals and tourists enjoy visiting. The city has asked visitors to stop bringing along bread for the birds, however, as it attracts seagulls to the pond, which are then more likely to feed on ducklings as well.

“With an increase in lesser black-backed gulls at Tjörnin comes an increase in the likelihood that newly hatched ducklings will become their prey,” the notice reads. “Ducks have enough food for themselves and their ducklings at Tjörnin throughout the summer and therefore it’s not necessary to feed them. A large quantity of bread can increase the organic pollution in the pond, especially because the number of birds increases dramatically when the gulls show up to the pond. The droppings from the birds, as well as the bread itself, increases organic pollution.”

While the city asks visitors to avoid feeding the ducks between May 15 and August 15, the same is not true for the rest of the year. “It’s safe to feed the birds in Tjörnin throughout the fall and winter months and such support is welcome, especially when the weather is at its coldest during midwinter, as food for ducks can be of short supply during that time of year.”

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