'They’ll never fly': Gosling wing deformity blamed on high-bread diet

Watch: Full video report on the flock of young geese that can't fly

Animal welfare experts are urging the public not to feed bread to wild birds, after a flock of geese in Kent developed a wing deformity.

Vets say the 12-week-old goslings will never be able to fly because of the condition – known as ‘Angel Wing’.

It is thought to be partially linked to an inappropriate diet, and is often seen in animals that have consumed excessive amounts of human food, such as bread.

The condition is known as ‘angel wing’ and prevents the feathers of the wing from resting flat against the body of the goose.

“Essentially, it’s a rotational deformity of the wrist joint,” explains specialist vet Dr Mark Rowland. “If birds grow too rapidly then the sheer weight of the feathers is too much for the muscles of the wrist. So, you get rotation of the wrist and wing.”

Volunteers at Vinters Valley Nature Reserve, who had been tracking the animals’ progress since they were born, first noticed the problem. 

Volunteers have been tracking the growth of the gaggle at Vinters Valley in Maidstone over recent months. Credit: Sue Skinner

“At first, I didn’t know if it was part of their development. But when they became more like a goose than a gosling, I really realised there was definitely an issue with their wings,” says  volunteer Sue Skinner. “I love them to bits… it’s just so sad that they’ll never be able to fly, to get away from danger.”

There is debate among experts about how harmful bread is to geese and how much of a factor it is in the development of the condition. The RSPCA advises against feeding bread to wild birds.

Evie Button, scientific officer, RSPCA:

Volunteers at Vinters Valley have installed new signs and warning posters to try to deter people from feeding the bread to the lake’s feathered residents. 

Warden Steve Songhurst hopes people will “break the habit”. He told ITV News Meridian: “Please, don’t feed them bread. I know it’s a nice thing to do, but there are plenty of other alternatives. You can still enjoy feeding the wildlife, just use vegetables instead."

Signs have been put up at the nature reserve in Maidstone, urging people not to feed bread to the geese.

‘Healthy alternatives’ to bread for water birds:

  • Sweetcorn

  • Lettuce

  • Frozen peas 

  • Oats

  • Seeds

Source: The Canal & Rivers Trust

‘Angel wing’ is easy to spot, as animals that are affected have wing feathers protruding from their body.

Wildlife legislation would mean if the affected goslings were removed from the park for veterinary treatment, they could not be returned. 

“You’d be condemning them to a prison in a much smaller environment. They were born here, so hopefully they will survive and be happy”, Steve added.