It’s time to change a national habit

Press Release – Topflite

By feeding white bread scraps to ducks, New Zealanders are doing more harm than good.

Developers of New Zealand’s first duck-specific food are calling for people to bin the bread, offering some councils a free trial of Lucky Duck to help them get the message out.

Eating a high-calorie diet of white bread causes malnourishment in ducks as well as severe vitamin deficiencies. In the worst cases ducks can develop ‘angel wing’ where wings become twisted and feathers fall out, leaving them unable to fly or swim.

Feeding bread also harms New Zealand waterways. Uneaten bread rots in the water, creating a fertile ground for the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Ingesting this bacteria produces a deadly neurotoxin in ducks, paralysing the bird from the neck down. An infected duck will drown if unable to lift its head out of the water or if paralysed on land, may die of dehydration.

Periods of hot, calm weather increase the occurrence of the toxin and councils around New Zealand have reported a rash of cases this summers.

To protect our local waterways and wildlife, we need to change our habits. Scott Bowman of Oxford Bird Rescue, who with his wife Tracey care for between 300 and 400 sick, injured or abandoned ducks each season, says that the public is slowly getting the message. “It’s about reeducation and setting up some clear messaging around the dangers of feeding bread.”

However he acknowledges that it’s difficult to change a habit that we formed as kids. Often on the receiving end of “outraged comments” from people defending the practice, Bowman advocates for a nation-wide approach, with leadership from local councils.

Topflite is offering free bags of Lucky Duck to selected councils, hoping to kickstart a nationwide shift to feeding ducks a safer and healthier alternative. Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and the Waitaki District Council are the first councils to be offered a trial of the specially formulated blend.

Ducks should be offered a blend of whole grains, seeds and vegetation that replicates their specific and diverse natural diet. Topflite’s Lucky Duck is New Zealand’s first duck food, locally grown and formulated to contain everything a healthy duck needs.

“We saw a need for a product to keep ducks healthy and well-nourished,” says Topflite’s General Manager Greg Webster. “Feeding the ducks is an enjoyable family activity and is a great way to help young children learn about birds in the wild.”

“We’d love to see more Kiwis get into the habit of taking a healthier alternative out with them on trips to the park, rather than scraps of bread.”
Developed alongside an avian nutrition expert, Lucky Duck replicates the
natural diet and feeding habits of ducks. It contains nutritious oats and barley, kibbled maize and sorghum as well as vegetable additions for those essential vitamins. All ingredients are grown by Topflite in the rich soil of Oamaru, ensuring much greater nutritional value than imported ingredients.

The ducks at Oxford Bird Rescue are certainly satisfied with the blend. Bowman says that after two years of feeding Lucky Duck, he has “certainly seen a lot better results” in his rehabilitated ducks.

Our feeding methods must change too. Rather than throwing food into the water, feed should be scattered on the ground to encourage the natural foraging behaviour of ducks.

With clearer public messaging and access to a nourishing, easy alternative to bread, New Zealanders can enjoy safer waterways with healthier, happier ducks.

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