Don’t feed the ducks: royal parks warn of bullying bird behaviour after lockdown | Environment

London’s royal parks are urging guests to cease feeding bread to geese as a result of it’s inflicting overcrowding and bullying amongst birds, the Guardian can reveal.

A marketing campaign launching right now highlights how extreme feeding upsets fragile ecosystems, resulting in giant teams of aggressive gulls and crows that steal the eggs and chicks of different birds. Leftover meals additionally attracts rats, and soggy bread and waterfowl faeces contaminate the water.

The message is a part of a brand new Assist Nature Thrive marketing campaign, which includes placing 250 indicators across the parks to encourage guests to cease giving wildlife meals of any variety – even whether it is what they naturally eat – due to unintended dangerous impacts. The royal parks are among the many busiest within the nation, with 77 million guests every year, and numbers growing in the course of the pandemic.

“It’s such a troublesome factor to handle as a result of it’s a part of a convention for many people, going out and feeding the birds along with your children,” stated Peter Lawrence, a biodiversity supervisor on the royal parks. “Individuals feed birds from a superb place, however there are unintended penalties.”

Lakes and ponds can solely maintain a sure variety of waterfowl. Extra meals means bigger populations, however with out additional house the birds get harassed and the chance of illness spreading will increase. Swan numbers have ballooned, with 175 throughout Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens right now in contrast with simply 13 in 1990. Solely three to 4 pairs can breed on a waterbody of the dimensions contained within the two parks, which implies a number of dominant males find yourself bullying a whole flock, the park authorities stated.

Throughout a two-hour interval on a small stretch of the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park final month, birds had been fed 15 occasions, and that was at a comparatively quiet time of day, stated Lawrence. The inhabitants of crows across the lake has elevated tenfold since 2004.

“It’s only a case of the sheer numbers of individuals and the sheer amount of meals that’s being fed to the waterfowl. It’s sort of unprecedented and it actually does have a complete suite of impacts,” he stated.

People watch ducks and swans in Regents Park, 13 June 2020 in London, UK.
London’s royal parks noticed a rise in guests throughout Covid lockdowns. {Photograph}: Jo Hale/Getty

Waterfowl faeces can also harbour zoonotic ailments, whereas water birds trampling on the grass causes naked, muddy floor which takes a very long time to recuperate. Feeding additionally stops wildlife behaving in pure methods, with birds akin to herons now begging for meals from people as a substitute of looking across the fringe of ponds.

“Prior to now it could have been acceptable to gather eggs and butterflies and now we’re asking folks to alter their behaviour once more,” stated Lawrence. Indicators are being erected across the eight royal parks asking folks to maintain their distance and urging guests to look at wildlife in its pure habitat.

“Wildlife doesn’t want handouts,” the marketing campaign tells guests, as there may be already an abundance of pure meals, together with aquatic crops, grasses and bugs.

As a part of the marketing campaign, authorities are reminding guests that it’s unlawful to feed deer. Guests are inspired to remain at the least 50 metres away from them. Plastic litter from meals wrappings can block their digestive methods and there have been circumstances of animals ravenous to demise because of this.

As a substitute of giving meals, park conservationists are urging guests to turn into bird-spotting detectives or go on wildlife trails. As a part of the marketing campaign, there will probably be pictures competitions run on the parks’ social media pages and different on-line assets.

Park authorities are planting timber and creating wildflower meadows, reedbeds, and new ponds for invertebrates and amphibians as a part of a 10-year Biodiversity Framework. This can present further meals for birds, giving them a pure and balanced weight loss program that can preserve them more healthy, conservationists say.

A child birdwatching in one of the royal parks
Park guests will probably be inspired to birdwatch or observe wildlife trails as a substitute of feeding wildlife. {Photograph}: Sue Lindenberg/Royal Parks

There are 400,000 data of greater than 6,000 species within the royal parks, together with 4,700 species of invertebrates. “That is about schooling not enforcement, we simply wish to current the data, and we’re hoping that folks – when armed with all the data – will resolve to do one in all our different actions as a substitute,” stated Lawrence.

Conservationists are break up about whether or not to feed waterbirds. The Royal Society for the Safety of Birds (RSPB) encourages folks to feed birds as a result of it helps folks join with the wildlife round them, however warns that an excessive amount of bread can depart them feeling full with out giving them all the vital nutritional vitamins, minerals and vitamins they want.

An RSPB spokesperson stated: “So, though bread isn’t dangerous our recommendation is to solely feed small quantities to birds. As a substitute, we encourage folks to make use of issues like sweetcorn, porridge oats, crumbled biscuits and defrosted frozen peas in addition to chicken seed.”

Discover extra age of extinction protection right here, and observe biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the most recent information and options

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