A poster urging people to feed bread to ducks “dying of starvation” has divided opinion over whether the popular family pastime is harmful or not.
The official-looking sign, which appeared at a park in Buxton, Derbyshire, but has cropped up across the country, says “it’s OK to feed us bread”.
It is not clear who printed the notices, which add: “Everyone has stopped feeding us because they wrongly think bread will make us poorly and now some of us are dying of starvation without your bread.
“Yes, it’s not the healthiest for us, but nothing in our bellies will kill us.”
A mother shared a photo of the poster on Facebook but later deleted the post after receiving an angry backlash from people telling her to take it down.
The post, which had already been shared thousands of times, sparked confusion and a heated debate about whether it is harmful or not.
A photo of the notice was also shared on Reddit alongside the comment “I’m confused about duck diet now”.
Some of the confusion appears to have been triggered by a “Ban the Bread” campaign started by rescue charity Swan Lifeline and a pet food brand last year, which warned of the dangers of feeding loaves to waterfowl.
One commenter said: “So after years of yes/no/maybe about the decorum of feeding bread to ducks... I am still as confused as ever.”
However one woman said it was “not rocket science”, adding: “Can’t people just find out what waterfowl should be eating and feed them that instead? Why does it have to be bread or nothing?”
And a grandmother said she was once “told off” by a stranger for feeding ducks bread with her granddaughter.
The Queen’s official swan marker previously warned that last year’s “confusing” bread ban campaign had done more harm than good.
He said: “Supporters of the campaign claim that bread should not be fed to swans on the grounds that it is bad for them. This is not correct.
“Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects. While bread may not be the best dietary option for swans compared to their natural food such as river weed, it has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them to survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also said birds need a varied diet to stay healthy, and that while it is safe to feed small amounts of bread to ducks, people should also feed them sweetcorn, porridge oats, peas and bird seed.
Tony Whitehead, from the charity, told the BBC: “Although ducks and swans can digest all types of bread, too much can leave them feeling full without giving them all of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need.
“So, although bread isn’t harmful, our advice is to only feed small amounts to birds.”