Each year more waterfowl are choosing to take up year-round residence in Eugene’s urban parks and become dependent on food handouts. Although feeding and interacting with waterfowl can be enjoyable, it can also cause potential health risks to humans, environmental degradation, and long-term health problems for these animals.
In recent years, Eugene Park and Open Staff have implemented changes to park landscapes to make them less desirable for waterfowl. Some of these changes include replacing concrete with native plants around the reflecting pond in Alton Baker Park, relocating some geese to a more suitable environment, and encouraging the Canada geese to take up residence in any of the high-quality habitats located in Eugene’s over 3,000 acres of natural areas.
Concentration and Loss of Natural Behavior
Feeding water fowl discourages their natural behavior and can rapidly lead to overpopulation in urban parks. Many of these birds will suffer injury from the aggression and competition that occur when wildlife become concentrated. High populations also cause costly environmental damage to the park and make it less enjoyable for community members. Bird droppings can increase algae growth in nearby water bodies, impact water quality, and harm fish populations. In addition, being fed by humans on a regular basis causes wildlife to lose their innate fear of humans. Waterfowl that keep their natural fear of people have the best chance for survival. When left on their own, waterfowl will find new areas where food sources are more plentiful.
Serious Health Issues
Angel wing is a disease that affects waterfowl, primarily geese and ducks. The condition is acquired by young birds and is believed to be the result of a diet high in carbohydrates from food sources such as bread. Feeding human foods to waterfowl creates a diet imbalance which causes the feathers of birds to grow so fast that their wrist bones cannot support the wings and the bones begin to twist outward. In adult birds the disease is incurable and usually leads to an early death as birds cannot fly.
Community education is an important aspect of the City of Eugene’s waterfowl management program. Components of the education program include a brochure, interpretive signage near areas of wild fowl concentration, annual news releases, and maintaining up to date website information.
Visitors to Eugene’s parks are encouraged to enjoy waterfowl from a distance and respect their wildness in order to give them a better chance to survive and thrive.
For additional information please feel free to contact 541-682-4800 or email us.
Short URL to this page: www.eugene-or.gov/waterfowlmanagement