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What To Feed Swans?

Swans are herbivores, so only feed the swans food that is primarily plant based.


3 Recommended Foods To Feed Swans


Cracked Corn (maize) And Wheat 

This corn or wheat that has been ground down into small pieces so it is much easier for a bird to swallow and digest (than if they ate the whole kernels). 


Cracked corn and wheat can be bought from bird feed suppliers and Amazon.

Rolled Oats

These can be purchased from your local supermarket.



Feeding bread to swans has become rather contentious in recent years, let me explain... 


Back in 2018, some individuals were waged campaign to stop people from feeding bread to swans. The campaigners' argument was that eating bread is unhealthy for swans in general and potentially caused a disfigurement called angel-wing, where a bird develops outward pointing feathers on its wings, rendering the bird unable to fly. 


The 'Ban the Bread' campaign gained some traction in the press, prompting many people to stop feeding bread to swans, resulting in many birds who had up to that point enjoyed liberal, daily helpings of bread from the public, becoming underweight and, in some cases, actually starving to death.  


In response, Mr. David Barber (the Queen's Swan Marker) and professor Chris Perrins(emeritus professor of Oxford University and Her Majesty’s Swan Warden) jointly released a statement. 


Summarising, their statement basically said:


Although not the ideal part of their diet, eating bread is not bad for swans - there is no reason not to feed bread to swans 


There was no evidence that the consumption of bread caused angel-wing.


Members of the public should continue to feed bread to swans, especially in winter when their natural food supplies are low.


So, that's it: feeding bread to swans is absolutely fine!


Having said that, I would to add a few caveats: Make sure the bread is not mouldy (because it can poison them), throw the bread into the water (or very near it) and if the bread has come from a sandwich, etc., make sure there's no chocolate spread or anything like that on it - chocolate is too rich for swans and will make them ill.


Be Cautious With These


Duck Feed

You can give swans duck feed, but be careful because you need to bear in mind this: commercial duck feed is used to 'fatten up' birds for commercial reasons, and the feed can contain too much protein, particularly if the duck food contains a lot of fishmeal. The susceptibility of a swan to develop angel-wing could be linked to too much protein in their diet, according to Janet Kear, Senior Scientific Officer of The Wildlife Trust. So, moderation is probably prudent when it comes to feeding swans bird foods that intended for poultry. 


Rye Grass Seed

Swans love grass and grass seed, but like duck feed, be careful: Make sure the grass or rye grass seed has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides. Any plant or seed that has been treated with these is not fit for animal consumption and could poison the swans.  


How Much Should You Feed Swans?


It's been said that swans will not more than they require, but whenever I've fed the swans, they just seem to eat and eat and eat! Having said that though, to prevent possible overfeeding and leaving uneaten food laying around the water or banks (which could attract rats, etc.) , only throw in a handful of food or so at the time, topping up with extra helpings when they've already consumed everything you've given them.


Continue The Glorious Tradition!


People of all ages have loved going down to their local park and feeding the swans for years. It's wonderfully satisfying to us and beneficial to the swans, too - long may it continue.

Swans Breeding

Back to Swan Information page

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