The public have been asked to continue feeding bread to swans, after a viral campaign about the dangers of bread to ducks led to a huge downturn in people feeding wild birds.
The ‘Bin The Bread’ campaign launched by rescue charity Swan Lifeline said that bread was bad for swans, but many experts say that the advice to feed oats and peas instead was not correct.
The campaign also claimed that bread “angel wing”, which is a birth defect and cannot be caused by eating too much bread.
The Queen’s official swan keeper David Barber said there is “no good reason” not to feed the swans bread and that many are underweight as a result of the ban.
Charities have been documenting the heartbreaking effects of the misguided campaign, as they are finding more and more swans who are either severely underweight, or who have starved to death, including in Edinburgh.
Writing on Facebook, wildlife charity Swan Support said:
“Sadly another swan that may have suffered from the “ban the bread” campaign. He was massively underweight, he weighed just 4kg. When our rescuers arrived they were met by a few members of the public who said they were told to stop feeding bread.
“He starved to death. He died in transit. The lake he was on doesn’t have much natural food, they rely on being fed by humans.
“Please if you’ve always fed bread please do not stop, it is better than nothing. We are not posting this for a debate. We are merely stating the facts. “
Mr Barber added: “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.
“There is no good reason not to feed bread to swans, provided it is not mouldy.
“Most households have surplus bread and children have always enjoyed feeding swans with their parents.”
For more animal and wildlife news from across the Edinburgh area like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.
You can also subscribe to our newsletter: enter your email in the blue box at the top of this article to get daily updates straight to your inbox.