LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Don't feed waterfowl. It's bad for your health.
I don’t know about you, but I love taking a walk through the park. There’s nothing better for your health than to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and to see what nature can do for you (we’re meant to love the environment!). As a kid, or maybe from movies or stereotypes you know, you may have brought bread to the park to feed the birds. I’m sorry to tell be the one to break this to you, but we shouldn’t be feeding any birds or waterfowl. It’s bad for your health.
For those of you around the Hamilton Harbour area, you’ll know that the water body has been labeled as an Area of Concern by the International Joint Commission due to extreme amounts of pollution in the lake. On many shorelines, high concentrations of Escherichia coli (or ‘E coli’) have been found, causing beaches to be closed to the public for safety reasons. Initially, it was thought that it was due to the pollution from waste processing plants, but after providing a cap for overflowing sewage, it was clear that another culprit was responsible.
The feces that birds excrete actually has a high level of E coli within it. Normally, this isn’t a problem – but when we feed them, we attract more birds to areas where they usually wouldn’t reside for a long period of time. This causes a build-up of bird excrements to wash into our beaches, and E coli counts to soar.
Additionally, when we feed the birds, they don’t get their normal nutritional requirements (since we tend to feed them breads and other items they normally don’t eat). Birds will then get used to these food items, and thus, be dependent on humans for food. Furthermore, those birds that are dependent on humans become less fearful of us, and will start becoming aggressive. So not only are we closing beaches by feeding waterfowl, but we are also causing large groups of birds to become aggressive towards ourselves.
Next time you decide to go to the park and toss around a frisbee or make sandcastles at the beach, please leave the bread at home. These birds are becoming domesticated in a way that’s likely to deprive you of beaches and parks in the very near future.
For more information, please visit the Bay Area Restoration Council website. Also, look for posters and ads in Hamilton public areas and parks, and at an upcoming information kiosk at Bayfront Park.