A WEEKEND trip to the park always used to involve feeding the ducks or swans with those end crusts nobody else eats.

But in recent years many families have become unsure about whether it's a good idea after health warnings from bird campaigners.

The man charged with looking after the Queen's swans has now warned uncertainty over what to feed birds has left many swans starving and underweight.

The Queen’s Swan Marker David Barber says there is 'no good reason' not to feed bread to swans and has been encouraging families to continue doing so to help them during the winter.

He added: “There has been a great deal of press coverage in recent months regarding the ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign which is confusing many members of the public who like to feed swans. "Supporters of the campaign claim that bread should not be fed to swans on the grounds that it is bad for them. This is not correct.

"Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects.

"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."

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Mr Barber also said it was untrue that feeding bread causes angel-wing in swans, a condition where a cygnet develops a deformed wing, and that malnutrition increases their vulnerability to fatal diseases like avian-flu.

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He added: "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 am receiving reports of underweight cygnets and adult birds, and a number of swans from large flocks have begun to wander into roads in search of food.

"This poses the further risk of swans being hit by vehicles.

"I therefore encourage members of the public to continue feeding swans to help improve their chances of survival, especially through the winter.”

Advice from the RSPB is that swans normally find enough food in the wild without supplementary feeding but in freezing weather extra food can be helpful.

A spokesman added: "Bread in large quantities can cause dietary problems.

"Grain, such as wheat, and vegetable matter, especially lettuce and potatoes, can be fed to swans.

"Food should be thrown into the water to avoid encouraging the birds onto the bank."