Ducks at a nature reserve have been banned from eating BREAD by keepers – who claim it has made them FAT.
The flock of tubby birds have been living at a pond at a country park for the past 36 years.
But officials say families’ love of feeding them carb-heavy bread has led to them piling on unhealthy weight.
They claim overzealous parents have been arriving with BIN LINERS full of fattening white loaves for their children to throw into the pond.
It means the conservationists have now been left with no choice but to put the hundreds of birds living on the pond on a diet at Ferry Meadows Country Park, in Peterborough’s Cambs.
In a bid to cut out the huge quantities of carbs being consumed by the birds, members of the public will be stopped from feeding them bread.
The park shop has also stopped selling bread, and instead will be offering wildlife lovers “healthy pellets”
Chris Park, 55, the park’s conservation officer since 1990, said he had no doubt white bread was the reason his ducks had become so plump.
He said: “About 90 per cent of people bring white bread to feed the ducks.
“If you put your children on an exclusive diet of bread then they would get fat too.
“People come along and think they aren’t getting fed but then ten minutes later somebody else will turn up with a big bag full.
“The weight issues were really apparent in some of our geese as well.
“Their stomachs and inside between their legs were nearly touching the ground.”
Visitors to the park have been given the commercially available healthy duck pellets for the last four months, after the problem was first identified.
Park wardens now plan to clamp down on the bread ban further amid concerns birth defects in chicks is linked to their parents living exclusively on white loaves.
One condition, called angel wing, saw some of the ducklings and goslings unable to fly when their feathers grew in at protruding angles.
It left them vulnerable to attacks from dogs and foxes but now Mr Park has revealed that the situation has drastically improved.
Bread handouts led to the ducks, geese and swans on the pond crowding around the park visitor centre in a “quacking mob” rather than foraging for themselves.
A a fence has been erected around the water edge, and new feeding platforms installed, in a bid to control the birds’ weight.
Mr Park added: “The pellets we are using can float on the surface on the water and it encourages the ducks to forage naturally.
“Since we brought in the changes there has already been a drastic improvement.
“We don’t have a rat problem any more and we don’t have any issues with angel wing among the ducklings.”
A spokesperson from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) confirmed that obesity in birds is something that needs to be looked at across the UK.
Graham Appleton, from the BTO, said: “Quite a few people are worried about how much white bread is being fed to ducks.
“We’re trying to encourage a more natural diet – nuts, fruit and seeds – where possible.
“When you’ve got ducks on a pond, that’s all they’re doing, sitting on the pond and eating, so they do tend to eat too much food and gain that extra weight.”
Nene Park was opened in 1976 where both wild and domestic birds have lived on the pond in Ferry Meadows.
Conservation officer Chris Park yesterday said geese and swans have piled on the pounds as well as the reserve’s resident ducks.
Some of the mallard ducks, tufty ducks and domestic geese have been pictured with stomachs so large that they struggle to walk because their stomachs drag along the ground.