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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Provide supplementary food for wildfowl to increase adult survival Bird Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • Two studies from Canada and Northern Ireland found that five species of wildfowl readily consumed supplementary food (grains and seeds).
  • Only the Canadian study assessed the physiological effects of feeding, and found that fed birds were heavier and had larger hearts or flight muscles or had more body fat than controls


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A randomised, replicated and controlled trial at Karrak Lake in Northwest Territories, Canada, (Gloutney et al. 1999) found that female lesser snow geese Chen caerulescens caerulescens and Ross’s geese C. rossii used supplementary food to different extents during incubation and showed different physiological responses to food. However, both males and females of both species were either heavier, had heavier hearts, more body fat or larger flight muscles when fed, compared to unfed controls. Differences were apparent both after laying and at the end of incubation. Between 250 g and 400 g of cracked and whole corn, durum wheat or shelled rice was provided each day.



A study in a wetland reserve in Northern Ireland (McGeehan 2005) found that mallards Anas platyrhynchos were attracted to, and ate, ‘Wildbird Mix’ seeds provided. However, they dominated and excluded other species, so the mix was replaced with white millet seed. This was too small for mallard to eat, and so other species such as wigeon A. penelope and teal A. crecca were able to feed. The reaction of waders to the same feeding activity is discussed in ‘Provide supplementary food to increase adult survival – Waders’.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.