Chislehurst Commons are reminding locals not to feed bread to the birds on the ponds because it encourages rats and risks disfigurement of the birds.
The ponds are part of the 180 acres of Chislehurst Commons that are managed and maintained under charitable status by a voluntary Board of Trustees. Concerned locals have been in touch with the charity after sighting disfigured geese that they feared had been injured by a car.
The deformed wings are in fact attributable to a condition called Angel Wing, caused by female birds having a high starch and low vitamin diet while eggs are forming inside the body. The developing embryo becomes malformed before hatching.
Fortunately the problem remains relatively rare. Trustee Colin Yardley explains that the Moorhen, Heron, Coot and Cormorant are “far too sensible” to eat bread – it is Canada geese and ducks that can suffer with the disfigurement.
Although there are signs reminding people not to feed bread to the birds, these often go ignored and many remain unaware of the problems it causes.
Nothing can be done for the deformed birds, but the rat infestation is costly for Chislehurst Commons to control and is a wasteful use of charity funds. The Commons cost £100k a year to maintain and this must be raised through grants and donations from residents.
For those who enjoy feeding the birds, free bags of birdseed are available in Champion Wines across the road from Prickend Pond.