Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lake Murray to discourage duck feeding

I haven't seen any definite information about it, but rumor is going around that Lake Murray in San Diego is going to start discouraging people from feeding ducks or other wildlife in the future. The claim is that the feeding is attracting rats, mice and seagulls.

Here is my opinion and observations on this issue:

I think they should continue with the morning feedings with Bill and the pre-dawn feeders at each end of the lake. If anyone asks why they are allowed to feed, it can be explained that they are the only ones allowed to do so, or they are the "official" feeders.

The only issue I have with some of the feeding is that the ducks will sometimes go across the parking lot to get more food in the morning. This can cause problems with drivers, especially on weekends. However, it's usually only a very short period in the morning where this is a problem and it quickly dissipates as soon as the feeder leaves the area.

Also, a minor problem is that feeding ducks corn does attract undesirable birds such as crows and grackles. However, the arrival of a recently fledged Cooper's hawk in the morning has put a damper on these pests. The only problem is that the hawk also likes other, more friendly, birds, too and you can't tell him which birds he can hunt and which ones he can't.

In the morning, I don't see any problems with the regular feeders that are there now who feed the birds birdseed and duck food or vegetables. However, I do notice that bread feeding at other times of the day, by the general public, has gotten out of control. I don't seem to remember so many people feeding the birds bread as there are now in all the years I've been going to this lake. Later in the day, I do notice that there are more seagulls and grackles than in the morning, when I see very few.

I do the bird counts at this lake once a month at the same time of day the feedings go on and see no increase in any one particular species. In fact, ducks have gone down in number, probably due to migration and construction. Coots have dramatically gone up for the same reason, but they are the only true increase I've seen recently of regular year-round species. I have also seen very few rats or mice at the lake.

There are several ducks that will probably starve or struggle if they don't get regular food. Ducks like Curly, the duck with half his upper bill deformed can't feed all day and he is already underweight. Bill said he was starving when he found him and it might be his end if he can't be fed. Also, Tom the Muscovy would have a hard time with getting enough food as he is sight impaired. The geese, also, may go hungry.

Feeding the ducks also helps monitor the progress of ducklings and makes it easier to see ducks who have been injured by fishing line or hooks. It is our responsibility to help birds harmed by human activities. If we didn't feed them, at least once a day, we would not see how many need help.

I usually don't think that people should feed wildlife as it can cause them to be dependent and attract nuisance animals or encourage aggression. But, I don't see a problem with the regular morning feeders. I do think that feeding bread should be discouraged and perhaps that's a place to start. I'm sure there will be people who will still feed the ducks bread or try to sneak-feed them, but if they want to curtail the feeding, they should start there and not with the regular feeders.

Another thing they can do is install pellet stations for people to buy healthy food for waterfowl that pest birds don't like. It might, at least, curtail the bread and "trash food" feeding that is, most likely, the problem.

That's my opinion on the issue.

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