The Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District operates more than 150 stormwater retention basins in the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan areas. Their primary function is the capture and storage of stormwater and urban runoff to protect lives and property in our community. Stormwater basins also help replenish our declining groundwater supply, which is our main source of drinking water. Yet another benefit urban basins provide is habitat for wildlife, birds in particular. The presence of most wildlife is compatible with the normal function of the basin. People residing in urban and suburban areas enjoy the presence of wildlife. Canada geese, ducks, coots, blue herons, egrets, foxes, box turtles, carp, and grackles are some of the wildlife that life in the District’s stormwater basins.
To keep basins functioning well, they are cleaned on a schedule of about every five years. A thin layer of soil is removed to keep sediment from slowing the absorption of water through the soil, and to keep accumulated pollutants that wash of off city streets from reaching unsafe concentrations. Cleaning requires basins to be drained and dried out first. That can displace animals that have taken up residence, but is only temporary. A story called “Storm Water Basins and Wildlife” published by the Fresno Audubon Society in their Yellowbill newsletter explains.
Geese and ducks beg for our attention and our food, which makes them hard to resist. It’s great fun watching them feed on our leftovers, but the fact is, feeding ducks and geese anything destroys their health and creates serious health risks to humans.
The natural diet of ducks and geese includes aquatic vegetation, insects and mollusks. Feeding bread to ducks and geese is the equivalent of feeding them nothing but candy. Once they get a taste for junk food they stop eating the healthy natural foods in their environment. You may think just a “little something” won’t hurt, but for every person you see feeding them there are a dozens more you don’t see.
Where birds are fed, more birds will come, usually leading to a crowded situation. More birds mean more droppings. Excess feces cause water pollution, creates an unsanitary environment for human recreation, and leads to the spread of disease in the bird population.
Such crowding and competition for food, combined with the stress of less nutritious food, increases their susceptibility to life-threatening diseases like avian cholera, duck plague and avian botulism. These diseases have the potential to kill large numbers of waterfowl.
Many avian diseases have been attributed to goose and duck feeding. Bread, popcorn, peanuts and other food that people feed waterfowl is not a natural part of their diet and can cause serious health problems, including metabolic bone disease and starvation. Avian Botulism (caused by artificial feeding) kills entire waterfowl populations and can be a health risk to humans.
Ducks and geese, although acclimated to humans, are still wild animals and thus unpredictable. Many ducks and geese that get used to humans will become aggressive towards humans and towards each other.
These are just a few of the problems associated with feeding wild waterfowl. Most people feed ducks with the best of intentions, not realizing the negative impact of their actions. Now that you know you can help by not feeding the ducks and geese and by educating other bird lovers.
The next time you are out enjoying your community’s ponds, canals, golf courses and other places where ducks and geese live, simply observe the beauty of the animals and refrain from feeding them.
For more information call (559) 456-3292.