Sometimes City Hall Responds Positively To Critique And Suggestions

Even when the subject is birds.

Regular readers know that in winter I sometimes photograph birds at two ponds near my home. Those ponds are owned by Murray City and administered by Murray Parks and Recreation Department and both are often crowded with ducks and geese.

Folks with good intentions often feed bread to waterfowl at urban ponds like these all over the world and they’re generally unaware that doing so can cause serious health problems for the birds and environmental degradation to the ponds. I won’t elaborate on those problems here but more information can be found at BBC News if you’re interested.


This is the small pond at Winchester Park where a prominent and strategically placed sign warns visitors of the dangers of feeding bread to ducks. I spend a lot of time here and I rarely see anyone feeding bread to the ducks (though it does occasionally happen).

Most folks wouldn’t even consider deliberately harming birds.



This is the much larger fishing pond at Willow Pond Park where there are often several thousand ducks and geese. The amount of bread fed to the ducks at this pond by well-intentioned humans simply boggles the mind. Some folks stop at the pond almost daily with their cars loaded to the gills with old bread and hamburger buns (I suspect they have a supermarket source for expired bread). At times they have both their trunks and back doors open and I can see into back seats and trunks packed full of bread products which they proceed to fling at the birds, sometimes in entire loaves.

Most have far less bread with them when they arrive but there are many of them throughout the day – especially after school gets out and parents bring their young children down to feed the ducks.

I noticed that there were no signs at Willow Pond warning of the dangers of feeding the birds (despite the fact that both parks are administered by Murray City and the two ponds are only about a mile apart) so about two weeks ago I visited Murray City Parks and Recreation Department to inquire about the sign inconsistency between the two ponds and suggest that similar signs be placed at Willow Pond. Based on previous frustrating experiences dealing with bureaucratic entities I fully expected to be spitting into the wind but I had to try.

Surprisingly the supervisor I spoke with was very receptive of my suggestion. Once I pointed out the potential harm to birds and water quality of the ponds and the inconsistency of having warning signs at one pond and no signs at the other he actually seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of placing new signs at Willow Pond. He told me I’d be receiving a phone call later that day from the supervisor directly responsible for those ponds to discuss the matter.

But when I never received the call I figured I’d probably run into yet another bureaucratic roadblock and nothing would be done. At first I considered visiting their offices again but in the end I decided to give them some time and see what happened.

I’m glad I waited.



Two days ago I spotted this brand new sign at the Willow Pond fish cleaning station (the pond is out of frame to the left).



A second sign is now strategically placed directly in front of the pond and…



there’s a third sign in front of the pavilion (the pond is to our right).

In multiple visits to Willow Pond since the new signs have been placed I’ve yet to notice anyone feeding the ducks. I’m not so naïve as to think the signs will solve the problem entirely but I fully expect them to have a significant positive impact.

I found it so refreshing to deal with a city bureaucracy that really cares about doing the right thing – in this case for the birds, for the environment and for the citizens of Murray. Kudos to Murray City Parks and Recreation specifically and by extension to Murray City for employing folks who really care about the impacts of what they do.

I’m proud to live in Murray.




35 comments to Sometimes City Hall Responds Positively To Critique And Suggestions

  • April Olson

    Nice! Thank you for prompting a change.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Great work Ron!

  • You really live in a scenic place. I lived in Salt Lake, Utah for 5 months because I ski. I remember how beautiful it is. I now live in Niagara Falls, NY and the parks department put up signs for people to stop feeding the ducks. Miraculously, people did stop. Many duck deaths had occurred which brought about the ban on feeding. I am glad your call brought about the signs.

  • Nicole

    That’s excellent! I love it when the red tape can get cut and people can get with doing what’s right!

  • I once watched someone feeding huge bags of bread to waterfowl at a pond in California. At first he tore up the bread then got sick of that and started tossing whole loaves. The mallards and Canada Geese were fighting with each other over the food, grabbing huge beakfuls and trying to gag it down before anyone else could! It was quite sickening to watch. I couldn’t believe it! Back home in our local park last spring, I noticed a young woman about to do the same to a big flock of Canada Geese. I walked up to her and, somewhat apologetically told her bread was bad for them and anyway made them pests. She gave me a nasty reply and carried on. Since then, our park has BANNED feeding waterfowl! The issue is though, how will it be enforced. I certainly will keep my eye out for infracters (if there is such a word) and point out the rules, but “people do love to feed the birds”.

  • Sybby

    Good for you!! High fives and a whole round of clapping webbed feet!

  • Marty K

    Yay Ron! And yay Murray City Park and Rec! You’ve given me hope to try it in my city. We have many ponds in our regional park and I often see people tossing bread — we used to do it when I was a kid.

    You’ve demonstrated once again the importance to our communities of sound science education!

  • Laura Culley

    Have I mentioned that you ROCK?! Seriously, Ron, most folks wouldn’t have bothered. I’d have preferred if instead of totally restricting feeding the ducks that they might educate how to feed the ducks/geese nutritious foods and maybe even provide nutritious foods at a reasonable price as another profit center. Of course, that means someone would have to be there to man the site, but that might or might not be available. In a perfect world…
    Still, you do real good lessening the amount of bread products in their diet, which is just GOOD! Again, you ROCK!

    • Laura, They actually provide duck food (in small vending machines) at Winchester Pond. Perhaps they’ll eventually end up doing the same thing at Willow Pond.

  • Betty Sturdevant

    Ron, without you and other people who are willing to take the initiative to address what seem like small problems in our world today nothing would be done. Thank you for your efforts and Murray City’s effort to make that small corner a better environment for everyone.

    • Thanks, Betty. My purpose in publishing this post was to demonstrate to others that even individuals can occasionally make a difference and it’s often worth it to make the effort.

      Many, many folks do similar things but most of them don’t have a platform like Feathered Photography to publicize successes, encourage similar efforts and give a public pat on the back to deserving players (Murray City employees in this case). Hopefully it’ll spread…

  • Patty Chadwick

    SCORE!!! Every win counts! Every win multiplies when those you educate tell others…good team work! Its rarity makes it even more special…I often say, You can’t cure stupidity, but you can cure ignorance with education…
    The stupid will continue to feed the bread(often old, stale, even moldy) but those who’ve only been ignorant will stop.

  • GoJoe

    That store bought bread ain’t too good for humans either, you should see what it does to you. NO Joke. Beautiful back drop on Willow Pond Park…WOW

    • That’s the Wasatch Mountains to the east of the pond, Joe. I could never live anywhere there aren’t mountains nearby, for among other reasons the fact that I can never, ever! keep my directions straight without them somewhere on the horizon. 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    Congratulations on getting the city to listen to you and take action. I’m one who used to feed bread to the Canada Geese on a pond in Salisbury, Maryland (though not in huge quantities) – I didn’t know any better. It’s never too late to learn. Thanks for the lesson.

    • Susan, I strongly suspect that the vast majority of those who do it “don’t know any better”. That’s why I think signs and other forms of “education” are so vital.

  • Kris Eberhard

    I’m so glad that you encountered a receptive, enlightened city government staff—sometimes it’s easier to give up after discouraging ( non) response to your efforts–thank you for your efforts
    and the example of persistence.

  • Ron, Here you go some ammunition why you should not feed bread, crackers, etc. to birds.

    from a google search

    Is Feeding Ducks Bread Bad? Learn the Facts! – Birding › … › Birdwatching Tips › Bird Feeders & Wild Bird Food

    Jan 20, 2017 – Bread and similar products such as crackers, chips, crisps, donuts, cereal and popcorn are great sources of carbohydrates but they offer little nutritional value for ducks, geese, swans and other birds. In fact, bread is the equivalent to junk food for birds.

  • Judy Gusick

    Interesting! Glad you got results. I’ve wondered from time to time about that in Great Falls, MT where Gibson Pond is home to both domestic and wild geese and feeding of bread has been going on “forever” tho I’ve never noted folks with a car full of it. The pond does get yucky – I just assumed it was too many ducks and geese not considering the bread issue.

    • Judy, from my research it seems to be a problem world-wide. And as you say this behavior from humans has been going on “forever” so it’s hard for folks to change their habits. I think education is the key (including but not restricted to appropriate signs) because very few would deliberately harm birds.

  • Sharon Constant

    A concerned citizen that frequented an urban pond in Sacramento zip tied a few laminated signs to benches. The signs had photos of ducks with deformities that had been attributed to a diet heavy in bread. It was quite sobering. I didn’t think to contact parks & rec to see if they would provide more permanent signage. I will do that as the laminated signs are fading and looking tattered. Thanks!

  • Gisele Roy

    Ron I live in Lakeland…and yes we have many small lakes/ponds loaded with waterfowl. We have a few small coin dispensers with ‘duck food’. i would love to follow your lead and get them to address the bread issue. is there any material you specifically used to educate them. It certainly would be worth a try to get them to put the signs up. As they say…’nothing ventured…nothing gained’.
    Congratulations on being the change in your area.

    • Gesele, No, I didn’t have any corroborating evidence with me when I talked to the supervisor. But when I told him that I was a retired biology, zoology and Utah Wildlife teacher and a daily blogger about birds it seemed to make a difference. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t…