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Confrontation at the duck pond

Original post made by John, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 19, 2007

A young woman decided to confront me at the duck pond while I was there feeding the ducks with my four-year-old daughter.

Word of advice to that woman: you'd better cut that out if you know what's good for you.

I ignored you and your taunts and put-downs. But someone else isn't and it going to hurt you. I don't hope that happens. But believe me, if you don't stop that will eventually happen.

You don't agree that people should be allowed to feed the ducks. Fine. Get a law passed. Can't get that passed? Then too bad.

Comments (24)

Posted by dott31
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2007 at 11:04 am

John, I share your discomfort over a good parent-child outing and project. As P.A. residents since 1965 my husband and I often took our kids to the Baylands to feed the ducks--sometimes as an independent project, sometimes as a fun activity incorporated into a housecleaning trip to the dump.. I've heard rumblings of complaints about the feeding of the ducks in recent years, but I've seen no scientific information about why feeding them is a boorish and self-centered act. About four years ago I was at a Cupertino park with a then three-year-old granddaughter. We were indeed feeding the ducks the few slices of broken bread that she clutched in her little hand when we were accosted by an angry and very self-righteous woman who insisted that we "stop this right away." She attacked also the two other individuals who were with their small charges feeding the ducks. When this woman and her large brood left, the three adults she had harrassed dutifully picked up and disposed of the many fast food wrappers, cans, and straws that, while vigorously lecturing us, the woman had allowed the youthful members of her party to abandon on the picnic bench and the ground around it. I'm with you, John. If feeding the ducks bread is a real problem, enlighten us as to the nature of the problem and, if the stakes warrant, pass a law. If this is not a real problem, please allow children and their caretakers peace while they're enjoying one of the few hands-on interactions left for them in nature in this increasingly and dangerously techno world.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Why was the woman upset for people feeding the ducks? I'm I missing something here: is it not good for the birds or does it make them mean? What gives?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:29 pm

I do agree that feeding ducks is a great family thing to do.

I have spoken to the docents on this subject before and they do have some valid points. The ducks at the duckpond are very well fed. Families come with loaves and loaves, rather than slice by slice and by the end of the day the bread is not eaten and sinks to the bottom of the pond where it festers into bacteria riden whatever and ultimately is harmful to the wildlife. The docents would much prefer plain, unsalted popcorn fed to the ducks as the popcorn won't sink and cause the same problems as bread.

If everyone who fed the ducks just used some common sense and only fed a little bread and if the ducks were not eating it because they were not hungry then there wouldn't be a problem. I enjoyed taking my children to the duckpond and it is true that the actions of a few can spoil the enjoyment of all, and unfortunately that this happens is all areas, not just with feeding ducks at the duckpond.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 5:40 pm

The authority that maintains / owns the duck pond should post suggestions regarding the type of food that should be fed to the ducks .. agreed that not 100% families coming to the pond will heed the notice - but even if 10% do, it will be a start. For example, the suggestion regarding - too much bread sinking to the bottom of the pond and hence breeding bacteria .. if that were written somewhere in bold near the pond ( or the daily runs a report on it on the front page ) - its bound to catch attention of some parents.

We enjoy the pond, we take left over ( edge slices ) bread to the pond - the ducks are greedy :) Usually the 4 to 5 slices are gone in a matter of minutes.

Posted by Nan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Actually, feeding the ducks is against the law and signs are posted at pretty much every duck pond around town with an explanantion of why it is bad for the ducks. This lady was rude and handled it all wrong, but please do not teach your children to break the law or to feed wild animals.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Actually, it's NOT against the law to feed ducks in Palo Alto. Please educate me as to other duck ponds located in Palo Alto so I can see those signs for myself. Egad's! Is the simple act of feeding ducks in Palo Alto the next politically incorrect faux paux?

Posted by Pat
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2007 at 12:22 am

I have been enjoying the duck pond since my parents took me there in the 40's when I was a toddler. My folks rode us on their bikes.
I loved it and when I became a parent I took my kids there to do the same thing. It was a wonderful gift from the '30s WPA guys.
Lets keep it peaceful and friendly, no need to preach at each other or get angry. Lets just keep enjoying the wonderful gift.

Posted by jq public
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm

The aforementioned woman doubtless demonstrated limited social skills. That said, the city does have signs to try to discourage feeding the ducks, though there are no regulations strictly prohibiting it.

Here's a weekly story on the subject:

Web Link

Posted by John
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Actually, Nan, feeding the ducks is NOT against the law. There is no law on the books about it, even the rangers will tell you that it isn't against the law.

Posted by John
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Pat, no one is 'angry' about it. I wouldn't let a toolbox like that woman get me angry, she is a loser who isn't worth it.

One of the greatest rights we have in this country is rarely spoken of: the right to be left alone. I was happily minding my own business, trying to spend some quality time with my daughter, when this woman decided to not mind her own business and bother me. That's wrong.

There is nothing wrong with expecting others to simply leave you alone, especially when you are truly minding nothing but your own business yourself.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Thirty-five years I've been going to the duck pond and feeding the ducks at the pond, since I was three years old.

Suddenly, there is a problem with people doing that?

Pass a law against it, I'll abide by it. Until then, if you don't want to feed the ducks, then don't. But I'll make that same decision for myself, thanks.

BTW, if it's such a problem, then why allow public access to the ducks in the first place? Oh gosh, can't do that because that would be addressing the issue TOO effectively.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:35 pm

Hear hear Dave. I too have been feeding ducks at various duck ponds for many years myself. I find it to be a very peaceful and calming activity. Unfortunately I was harassed by a self-appointed "Educator of those in favor of NOT feeding ducks any longer" today. I politely told her to mind her own business. Since some of the signs posted there warn: "Feeding Leads to Chubby Ducks", and seeing as she was somewhat overweight, I felt like self-appointing myself "Educator of those in favor of NOT over-feeding people" and harassing whoever was over-feeding her. My bad?

Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2007 at 9:38 am

JustMe is a registered user.

This woman probably felt like she wanted to get into someone's face with rightousness, and she has chosen duck-feeding as her social issue to pursue. There are more important things she could be an activist on, like, say, drug pushing in EPA. She *COULD* go tell the pushers to stop making and selling meth, which would be 1000 times more important than duck-feeding. Why doesn't she do that? Oh, wait, pushers have guns, duck-feeders don't. It's safer to pick on the duck feeders.

Perhaps we don't gave guns, but we DO have cell phones. If you are on an outing with your family and someone gets in your face over something like this, dial 911. If they see what you are doing and get into their car to leave, add the license plate number to your call.

Let's keep Palo Alto a plesant place to be, where people can go about their legal pastimes without harrassment.

Posted by Been in there
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Funny, I've been feeding the ducks since I was a young child (in the 60's) and I never a seen any bread go uneaten. In fact there usually a frenzy for the bread and if the ducks don't get it the seagulls will. The only thing I remember sinking in the duck pond was me when I fell in when I was 5, before the chains... boy was my grandpa mad. it was still a fun family experience and have since taken my own children there. I say feeding the ducks is ok.

Posted by J. Doe
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2008 at 9:40 pm

jq public - thanks for posting an informative link. Too bad most people aren't willing to click on the Web Link and read it. I hope the Weekly doesn't mind if I post it in its entirety below. There really ARE good reasons for not feeding ducks. Please read on....

Publication Date: Friday, August 12, 2005

City: Don't foul the fowl
Feeding ducks does more harm than good
by Koren Temple

At the Baylands Preserve duck pond last week, kids and parents gleefully tossed pieces of crumbling bread to flocks of fighting ducks.

The activity seemed quite harmless, but according to city officials, feeding the ducks at the Baylands creates a foul effect.
"People are dropping off piles of unwanted bread or food that's gone bad thinking they are helping, but in fact they aren't," said Darren Anderson, senior ranger of the city's Open Spaces Division

The city is mounting an information campaign to dissuade feeding the ducks because of health concerns. So far, the effort -- called "Killing Them With Kindness" -- consists of signs posted near the pond explaining why feeding park wildlife is a bad idea.

One of the main concerns is it disrupts their natural eating habits, Anderson said. Ducks' natural diet consists of aquatic vegetation, such as worms, clams and shellfish -- not Cheetos, crackers, or moldy bread. Even fowl are prone to the sweet temptation of snack foods, which can cause stress and competition among the ducks.

As a result, Anderson said birds can suffer injuries fighting over food.

The pond and its surroundings are home to 22 permanent bird species and another 150 migratory species. But when overfeeding occurs, migration is disrupted because the ducks don't want to leave. This leaves the pond overcrowded with begging birds, Anderson said.

Some harmful effects of overcrowding are pollution and the potential for diseases.

"When the ducks are in tight spaces, they can become overstressed and sickly," said Anderson, who has seen respiratory diseases among the flocks.

So far, when Anderson visits the pond to inform the public of the campaign, he said people respond favorably.

"It's usually, 'Oh gosh, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to feed the ducks,' followed by 'What should I be feeding them?' And the answer is, nothing" Anderson said.

Still the majority of the public is unaware, as demonstrated last week, despite the signs posted in the informational booth.

"I think we've just scratched the surface," said Anderson, who realizes that people are still going to feed the wildlife.

Plans are in the process to place a permanent sign near the pond, one more visible than a standard leaflet that would detail the dangerous effects of overfeeding in both English and Spanish.

"I do understand that it's not unusual for cities and parks across the country to limit the amount of food animals are getting. I think it's something not out of the ordinary," said Parks and Recreation Chair Anne Cribbs.

Although Palo Alto doesn't have an ordinance prohibiting feeding, many other cities do - including most in Santa Clara County. Fremont has had similar issues, and has addressed it with educational postings, media attention and enforced ordinances.

Foster City, another area with similar duck problems, has also posted signs to discourage duck feeding. It's the mess the fowl leave behind that is the main concern there.

"People can relate to that because they want clean beaches and lawns," Kevin Miller, director of Parks and Recreation in Foster City, said.

Anderson said he is unsure if the city will go so far as to enforce a no-feeding ordinance.

"Our intention is to start with the education and go from there," he said.

Posted by Been in there
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2008 at 10:51 am

If you can't feed the ducks at the city's duck pond anymore (it's been a family "to do" for generations"), then perhaps the city should have something at the Junior Museum or at Baylands that teaches kids the rights from wrongs about feeding wildlife, let them see how they are fed... and make it free and fun and accessible to all (not a class you have to join for $ in the Enjoy catalog). People are there because they are looking for free family fun. People are willing to learn and not be untentionally ignorant.

Posted by Been in there
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2008 at 11:05 am







Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Yeah! Really! What's wrong with you guys? You have a nice, neat list of nine more things to make illegal!!! Let's get going!

Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 19, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Right on, "Been in there"!! I agree with you.

Lucky for you the ducks were fed that fateful day you fell in or maybe you would not have been such a "lucky duck"!!! (JK)By the way, did you happen to see any bread in the bottom???

Back in the early 1980's, my sons and I went out to the duck pond when there was a break in the rain ..(yes, to feed the ducks.) The road out there was in horrible, bumpy condition, puddles everywhere.

We got out of the car and started to feed the ducks..out of the pond came some LARGE geese..I mean they were really almost as big as my 3 year old son! Geese were quacking and carrying on, one tried to (well he did accomplish to) take nibbles on my sons pants. We exited for safety reasons to the car~ the one goose flew up on our car hood!! Talk about a nightmare in the daytime!!! We were the only ones out there at the time. Being winter, people don't frequent the duck pond much, hence the frenzy.

Obviously now the road out there was fixed (shortly there after~. We did return to the scean of the attack not long ago. Was a nice sunny day and the ducks were being fed and behaving theirselves~ just like in the story book ending.It was great to see the peace and tranquility we have here, a great place to reflect with nature.

Posted by i get ur point
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:19 pm

dear woman feeding the ducks-this will definitely trump ur experience-

Please look at the new postings under "new crime tracking system (or x like that title) and read comments by: 'NONE", "OLDTIMER" . Evidently its a "crime" to garden-in your own yard...

Posted by blogger
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:57 pm

DEAR JOHN: I agree. And, I am relieved that you believe that u shd be left alone.
Today some other folks tried to put their similiar exp's in P.A. on the "crime indicator", type article but the powers that be took the six comments down at apx AND did not allow any more comments. The writers were attempting to create a forum for ur type of incident.

We sold our pa house at a loss b/c of such b.s. P.A. is now well known as a "nazi-type" "I"ll report you" or " I"ll harass you" PETTYCOAT PURITANISM city. Its also readly called "SHALLOW ALTO" and now, even worse, it is called the P.A. 'PALLYBAN" (vs Taliban).

We cd not garden in our yard b/c psycho chick n'bor filed a false T.R.O. claiming extreme falsehoods (of course, court filings are Constitutuionally prot'd speech)(so, hard to civilly claim defamation). Which, resulted in many things incld'g my atty forbiding me from gardening in my front garden--the n'bor claimed that my new Mulberry trees fruit wd be eaten by birds and mess her yard and stated (along w/ many other veryserious lies) that we had INTENTIONALLY gardened to harass her. blah, blah, blah. I know, poor me. But, really wierd and it got wierder.

Yes, we need people like you.. However, eventhough we came through Stanford Grad we decided that P.A. was unforturnately too freakly run by same. BTW P.A. used to be cool-Jerry Garcia, a real love vibe, The Gatehouse wh. had live music etc. Now the PETTYCOAT PURITINISTS men and women are alive, well and truly running the lives of all Palo Altons. Move now - the creek is a well known crime corridor-the cops know this- it crosses county lines and the recent burglaries are probably related if not, they hv been in the recent past. Make your money on the house, put ur kid in a private school and get the blank out. It is only getting worse!

In the meantime, blog, blog, blog.--that is until the powers that be censor it (like today).
All the Best-but unfortunately it will get worse. Signed, Been There.*

Posted by ready
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2008 at 10:24 pm


Posted by Geri
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2008 at 8:24 am

I was actually looking for some guidance on getting some of my neighbors to be more mindfull when the ducks come around.

We have lived in Midtown for almost 15 years. We have a large lot and a small orchard.

Every year we get about 30 visiting ducks over a four month period. I put out chicken scratch and a tub of fresh water.

These ducks have an Internet that rivals anything I've ever seen. Over the course of the visit they become more bold and allow me within about five feet if I want to get to something near their food. Often two to three pair make my yard their home for the day. It is wonderful and I look forward to "Duck Season" every year.

Now---here is the part that will dismantal all of the notions that feeding them will interrupt their migration instincts: Hogwash. They stay to do whatever is they are doing and then they leave. I have never had ducks year around---in 15 years.

I have bird food out yearly as well. With our dwindling environment, food is more difficult to come by--be a friend. Feed the birds.

Posted by Scott Prose
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I am sorry people have been so self righteous in there quest, but there is loads of scientific information proving that feeding the ducks is a really bad idea. This is why. Water contamination aka discusting ponds. Eco systems can not handle large loads of waterfowl excrement. The bacteria levels increase quickly (including ecoli) and a poisonous blue green alge forms that hurts other animals like your dog. The bird poop hurts everyone including them. The more you feed ducks the more there will be and therefore more poop.

I nicly plead with you for the sake of all ponds and the creatures in them do not feed the ducks.

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