Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Bread is safe to feed swans, says marker

Bread is safe to feed swans, says marker

CALLS for people to stop feeding bread to swans and other waterfowl have been rejected by the Queen’s chief swan marker.

David Barber, who lives in Henley, is responsible for ensuring the swan population in River Thames remains healthy.

This year, he took part in his 27th consecutive swan upping to check on the health of the birds.

This took place after rescue charity Swan Lifeline launched a “Ban the Bread” campaign, which was supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Mr Barber said many birds were being found underweight because people were no longer feeding them bread.

He said: “The Ban the Bread campaign is already having a deleterious impact upon the swan population.

“I am receiving reports of underweight cygnets and adult birds and a number of swans from large flocks have begun to wander into roads in search of food.

“This poses the further risk of swans being hit by vehicles. Malnutrition also increases their vulnerability to fatal diseases like avian flu, which has caused the deaths of many mute swans and other waterfowl in the past.

“There is no good reason no to feed bread to swans, provided it is not mouldy. Most households have surplus bread and children have always enjoyed feeding swans with their parents.”

Bread is not considered to be the best option for swans when compared to the rest of their diet, such as river weed.

But Mr Barber said it has become an important source of food and should not be taken away from them.

He added: “Supporters of the campaign claim that bread should not be fed to swans on the grounds that it is bad for them. This is not correct.

“Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill-effects.

“It has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them to survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.

“I therefore encourage members of the public to continue feeding swans to help improve their chances of survival, especially through the winter.”

A spokesman for Swan Lifeline said: “In common with advice from the RSPB and the Canals and Rivers Trust, Swan Lifeline does not recommend feeding human foods to swans and other wildfowl.

“This includes bread, pizza bases, cakes, sandwiches which contain butter and meat products as they contain high levels of salt, sugar, fats and other additives.

“Bread and other human foods are not a subsitute for a swan’s natural diet. Corn, chopped cabbage, spinach, peas and floating specialised swan and duck food pellets are the most suitable foods for the species.”

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