Hunters beware, mutant ducks could be on the horizon. No, these birds won’t be shooting laser beams or strutting around with an adamantium skeleton and some cool sideburns. They are in fact suffering from a symptom known as “angel wing.” Some ducks with abnormal diets will develop wing feathers that grow faster than their bones will support, leading them to splay out in the sides instead of lying flat across the body. The condition is incurable in adult birds and keeps the animal from flying properly, or sometimes at all.

According to KTXL FOX40, bird advocate Judy McClaver has been studying the problem for years.

“I did some research, and found out it’s caused by us, from the human food we feed them,” McClaver told FOX40. She specifically mentions bread, which can cause imbalances in the birds’ diet. Feeding ducks is a popular pastime in many parks across the country, but many people now know to feed the birds a healthier mix of seeds instead of bread.

A study by the city of Spokane, Washington found that the carbohydrates in bread is what’s causing the deformities.

“It all goes back to the public dumping bread into park ponds believing they are helping feed the wild ducks, when instead they are really harming them,” said Parks and Recreation Supervisor Steve Nittolo.

Angel wings are especially prevalent in waterfowl that have regular contact with humans. To help safeguard the birds, parks have put up no feeding signs, but that only seems to exacerbate the problem as it deprives the animals of a trusted food source. McClaver says she visits her local park several times a week to hand out bird seed to passersby as an alternative.

Despite being a large problem for the waterfowl population, little research is being done on the subject. Currently scientists are unsure if two mated ducks with angel wing could produce offspring with the same deformity.

The video below shows a family of ducks with the illness:


Image from Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis (Carly & Art) on the flickr Creative Commons

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