Parents honouring the time-honoured tradition of taking young children to feed the ducks may be surprised to know the creatures aren't built for bread or vast quantities of peas.
Two years since a duck death-by-overfeeding incident at Wollongong Botanic Garden, council says signs alerting visitors to best practice appear to be working.
Visitors are advised "it's best not to feed the ducks at all", but to stop at 10 peas or 10 cut grapes if they must partake.
"We've had signage in place for many years providing recommended food options for those keen to feed the Garden's resident ducks," a council spokeswoman said.
"The signs were updated in 2021 to advise its best not to feed the ducks as they have plenty to eat and a natural diet is best that has the correct balance of carbohydrates and protein.
"If you have to feed we advise a limit of no more than 10 peas, after a duck had to be euthanised due to a greatly enlarged and fatty liver.
"The duck's cause of death was linked to a diet that was too high in carbohydrates, overfeeding, and not enough healthy proteins.
"The ducks have small bellies and don't know when to say no so it's always best if they scavenge in the Garden for good proteins like worms, grasshoppers and other small insects.
"Right now, the Garden's ducks are flourishing and we'd like to thank our community for being mindful by not feeding the ducks or choosing carefully the types and amount of food they're sharing with the ducks. We ask people to continue to do the right thing and either let the ducks scavenge for food themselves, or just share a few peas with them.''
More than one duck has died at the gardens in the past, though their causes of death were not recorded.
The gardens draw about 500,000 visitors a year and sometimes a crowd forms to feed the ducks, which are a mixture of domestic and wild species including the native Australian wood duck, Eurasian Coot and Purple Moorhen plus exotic species like the Dusky Moorhen.
Dr Holly Parsons, BirdLife Australia's urban bird program manager said overfeeding ducks could "breed demand" among the creatures, so they became more pushy.
"There's that personal responsibility - people need to be aware that a little bit of food is good. If there's a lot of people around wanting to feed the birds, so limiting the amount to give other people the opportunity is a good thing," she said.
"We all have a lot of memories of going and feeding the ducks at the pond. It's a really common occurrence but we know that just going and throwing bread out to the poor birds in general is not good for their health. They can suffer malnutrition and disease and bread can also pollute their waterways."
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