The black-and-white Common Goldeneye is one of the last ducks to migrate south in fall. It often will winter as far north as open water permits. The waters around Anchorage have been frozen for over a week now. Most lakes and ponds are safe to walk on but not safe to drive on yet.
We're getting birds in the clinic now that waited too long to migrate and now they have problems. This guy should have taken the trip south at least 2 weeks ago. Now, if he wasn't brought into Bird TLC, he would have had a real hard time finding food and his web feet freeze easily on the ice.
There are many reasons why he waited too long. He's sick or injured and isn't strong enough to make the trip. Another is that he got use to being feed by humans and was waiting for one more hand out.
I also made this mistake in the past. Like many others, I didn't know any better. In Anchorage, there is a municipal code against the feeding of ducks and geese. There is no shortage of their natural food source, so they really don't need the help from us.
Another reason to refrain from feeding geese is that the foods commonly used, such as bread and french fries, are nutritionally inadequate and cause serious, potentially deadly impactions of the crop. Geese don't know when to stop eating, and the large quantity and the low quality of food combines to create disastrous results. Young birds often develop nutrition deficiencies resulting in crippling deformities. Most of the time they die or have to be euthanized because by the time we receive them the damage is irreversible.
The number of eggs laid by a pair of ducks or geese is in direct proportion to the amount of food available. When food is artificially added to an area by people feeding wildlife, the birds will over-populate an area very quickly. They also will remain in the area longer, contaminating the environment, making it unhealthy for people as well as wildlife.
Another good reason to avoid feeding geese is for their own protection - to ensure they retain their fear of humans. You may not pose a threat to their survival, but if they do not fear ALL humans, they are bound to run into an unfriendly one sooner or later.