Issue 2, Winter 2019

Swans hit by bread myth

25 Aug 2019  | 

The effects of a disastrous ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign last year are still being felt, with many people still confused over whether you should feed it to swans and other waterfowl. The spread of this fake news is thought to have led to malnutrition and even deaths and prompted the Queen’s Swan Marker to issue a statement dispelling the myth.

“Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects,” says David Barber, MVO (Member of the Royal Victorian Order). “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. I therefore encourage members of the public to continue feeding swans to help improve their chances of survival, especially through the winter.” He says there is also no evidence that feeding bread causes angel-wing deformity in swans.

Mr Barber is currently asking dog owners to control their pets following an increase in the number of fatal attacks on swans. An appeal issued on his website says, “Many adult swans have been killed in the most appalling circumstances; others have been seriously injured and in almost all of these cases the clutch of eggs has been lost with the result that swan numbers may be adversely affected. This negative impact on swan numbers exacerbates the already difficult struggle faced by mute swans to survive on our rivers where they are subjected to pollution, other natural predators and, of course, the threat posed by humans. We therefore ask dog owners to keep their dogs under control when in the vicinity of swans and other wildlife.” For more information about the role the Queen’s Swan Marker plays in conservation of the mute swan visit