Feeding the ducks banned due to risk of spreading bird flu
People have been warned not to feed birds like ducks and swans due to the risk of spreading avian flu.
Signs prohibiting the classic family activity have gone up in the Royal Parks in London, on the advice of the UK government.
They say that this is because throwing food to birds in parks encourages them to group together, making it easier for disease to spread.
At the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, signs showing a hand feeding a duck are circled in a red ring with a strike through.
Meanwhile, the famous pelican residents of St James’ Park are no longer able to roam free and are instead constrained to their enclosure.
A spokesperson for the Royal Parks said that some birds in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are suspected to have caught and died of bird flu.
They are waiting for the results of testing to confirm if this is the case.
People ignoring the signs and feeding the ducks will not face punishment such as a fine, but they could be doing more harm than good.
Last week, charities said they have pulled the bodies of 66 dead swans out of water by Windsor Castle.
Bird flu is now thought to have wiped out a third of the flock of royal swans on the River Thames.
Signs warning against feeding the birds have also gone up in this area, to try and stop more birds succumbing to the illness.
Bird flu is currently a major concern, with some supermarkets rationing how many eggs customers can buy due to the disease, as well as from rising costs for farmers.
Seabirds have been particularly badly affected in the UK’s largest ever outbreak of avian flu.
A Royal Parks spokesperson said: ‘As custodians of large open spaces in London, we remain very concerned about the current UK-wide outbreak of avian influenza.
‘We are unable to prevent wild birds from getting the virus, but we are carrying out enhanced monitoring of our waterbodies to check for signs of illness and to ensure that any dead birds are removed immediately.
‘We are following all instructions issued by Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) and as a result, our colony of pelicans in St James’s Park have been moved to their enclosure on Duck Island.
‘In two of the spaces we manage, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, we believe that some birds have possibly contracted and died from avian influenza. We have alerted Defra and are waiting to hear back on whether they can test them for the disease.
‘It’s important that visitors do not feed the wildlife. Feeding encourages birds to group together which increases the risk of transmission of avian influenza between birds.
‘Dogs should also be on leads near waterbodies and kept away from birds.’
A spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said they were still advising people it is okay to feed birds such as blue tits and blackbirds in their own gardens, but that it was more risky to feed waterfowl.
They said: ‘This is the worst outbreak of avian influenza we have ever seen and over 60 different wild bird species have been affected in the UK.
‘So far, bird flu is predominantly being reported in species that are not commonly found in gardens and our advice remains that people can still feed garden birds while ensuring good hygiene at bird feeding stations.
‘This includes regularly cleaning feeders outside with mild disinfectant, removing old bird-food, spacing-out feeders as much as possible and washing your hands.
‘Last winter, bird flu was primarily affecting overwintering geese, as well as swans and ducks.
‘Due to the ongoing risks posed by this disease, providing supplementary food to wild waterfowl may not be recommended at present.’
When it is safe to feed the ducks, the standard stale loaf of bread may not be that good for them anyway.
The RSPB said that instead they would suggest crushed biscuits, breakfast cereal or porridge oats.
Granary breads with seeds are marginally healthier than cheap white sliced loaves but still simply fill the birds up without doing them enough good.
Anyone who sees sick or injured birds is urged not to handle them.
Instead, if they are in London’s Royal Parks they can report the birds by phoning 0300 061 2000 or emailing email@example.com.
People can also report sick or injured birds directly to the RSPCA.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.