From Roger and Jenny Crates, Freshwater:

It was wonderful to read the account on the County Press website about the message from the Queen’s swan marker, David Barber, encouraging families to continue feeding swans bread, especially in the winter.

He said there has been a great deal of press coverage in recent months regarding the ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign, with its supporters saying people should not feed swans bread on the grounds it is bad for them.

David Barker says quite categorically this is not true — they have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects.

Bread has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.

It is untrue that bread causes ‘angel-wing’ deformities, and on the contrary, malnutrition increases their vulnerability to avian-flu and other fatal diseases. 

Mr Barker has been receiving reports of underweight cygnets and swans wandering into roads in search of food, and County Press readers may remember the family of swans in the summer who were leaving the river here at Freshwater and walking down one of the main roads in search of food.

Thankfully after checking with the swan help line at Windsor and finding out the heatwave had killed off the river-weed and they were starving, we began to feed them swan pellets and brown bread three times a day, and the three cygnets have grown into strong healthy young swans. Their parents are also well and strong.

But if we hadn’t intervened, they might well not have survived, or be facing the winter months in a very weakened state.

It is a great privilege to help wild birds in this way.  What a great pity that the RSPB did not alert the public to the fact the heatwave had affected river vegetation so badly.

Their suggestion that lettuce and potatoes can be fed to swans sounds unlikely — we have tried lettuce on several occasions and they simply don’t eat it.

So,  God bless everyone who cares enough to feed the swans. Yes, brown bread is much better, and also swan pellets which can be bought from local stores or purchased on-line.

Given the choice between eating bread and starving to death, we know what the swans would say.