If you ask most birders when they had their first personal interaction with a wild bird, many would likely say it was when they fed the ducks at a local park or pond as a child. Many conservationists and city officials debate whether feeding wild birds is a good idea or not. Despite this difference of opinion, if you feel the inclination to pass along some treats to ducks or geese, it helps to know what foods are healthy choices.
In reality, they are capable of fending for themselves, finding their food in the wild, and do not require human handouts to survive, no matter the season or how much they beg for treats. One thing the experts all agree on is that too much feeding is unhealthy and can create excess waste and pollution that can destroy habitats and harm birds and other wildlife.
Birders also agree if you must give ducks or any other wild birds a treatand no posted notices or local ordinances discourage the practicethen nutritious treats are the best choice to offer. Some people may feed ducks their leftover stale or moldy bread, which should never be fed to the birds: Several types of mold can be fatal to waterfowl. Cracked corn Wheat, barley, or similar grains Oats (uncooked; rolled or quick) Rice (plain white or brown, cooked or uncooked, whole or instant) Milo seed Birdseed (any type or mix) Grapes (cut in half or quartered if very large) Nut hearts or pieces (any type but without salt, coatings, or flavoring) Frozen peas or corn (defrosted, no need to cook) Earthworms (fishing bait or dug from the garden) Mealworms (fresh or dried) Chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes Vegetable trimmings or peels (chopped into small pieces)
Avoid feeding the ducks if other visitors are already offering treats: Too much food can lead to health problems and uneaten leftovers. Litter can hurt birds and the environment; dispose of all trash properly, including bags, twist ties, plastic clips, and any unsuitable or moldy scraps.
What is the best thing to feed ducks?
DO: Feed ducks cracked corn, oats, rice, birdseed, frozen peas, chopped lettuce, or sliced grapes. These foods are similar to natural foods ducks will forage for on their own. DON’T: Leave uneaten food lying around. Leftover food in the water can rot and cause deadly algae blooms that affect local wildlife.
What can I feed my backyard ducks?
Insects. ….Worms. ….Weeds/Grass. ….Berries. ….Fish/Eggs. ….Layer Pellets– These are the same as what you would use for chicken feed. ….Sunflower Seeds– We keep a lot of black oil sun flower seeds, but any will do! ….Cracked Corn– Corn and other scratch grains are LOVED by ducks.
What should you not feed ducks?
Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn and similar bread-type products and scraps are never best to feed birds. Feeding ducks bread is bad because the food has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings’ growth, pollute waterways and attract rodents and other pests.
Youve probably heard bread is bad for ducks. And it probably annoys you anytime someone throws this piece of wisdom at you because youve seen how much ducks love breadcrumbs. (Its a bit like cats and milk.) But what do ducks eat? Join us as we fish and find out!
The patch lets her share her body heat more effectively, and she turns her eggs and moves them around the nest so that each of her babies gets the same amount of care and hatching time. If youre keeping them for meat and selling their eggs, their diet will be vastly different from the friendly, colorful ones at the neighborhood pond or nearby beach.
On dry land, ducks dip their beaks into the soil looking for insects and tiny rodents. Its a mix of milo, barley, wheat, oats, corn, millet, and a small number of sunflower seeds. You can buy commercial birdseed or scoop edible seeds from the (human) pantry.
The natural diet for ducks includes snails, fish, algae, frogs, and shellfish. This muesli has mealworms, shrimp, mineral salts, bran, alfalfa, soybean, and a variety of grains. Their 340 field of vision can spot close objects and distant ones simultaneously and in full color.
So while theyre efficient at finding their own food, they can easily defer to human feeding and lose their killer instincts. Their gland secretes wax that coats and softens their down-feathers , making this undercoat a popular source for feathered pillows. Nightshade peels (including potatoes, eggplants, capsicum, tomatoes) can be toxic.
Grain is a good choice for most birds, but opt for cracked corn and rolled oats since these are easier for ducks to digest. In case youre in a rush (or if your commute passes by a lake), grab a pack of birdseed from any pet store. And when they sleep, designated guard ducks patrol the edges of the flock, keeping one eye open and half their brain awake.
Plus they make great metaphors because theyre waterproof, they swim, they fly, and their feet practically spin underwater. So lets find the answer to ten common questions about ducks (and their eating habits). But for wild ducks, over-reliance on humans can threaten their survival, so dont offer your hands.
Ducks will gladly eat insects, lizards, snails , crayfish, and pond fish. For domestic ducks, your vet can confirm the right amounts of calcium, niacin, and grit.
As a kid, we regularly got rid of stale bread by taking it down to the pond and feeding the ducks. Unfortunately, it is really bad to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl bread. Beyond the harm it causes the birds, it also pollutes the environment. Heres what to feed ducks instead of bread, and these alternatives are much healthier for both your feathered friends and the planet.
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Few things are more frustrating than sitting in a cold duck blind all day and having no ducks show up. You know you can bring deer and bear into a location of your choosing by creating food plots or bait sites for them, but have you ever considered doing the same for ducks?
A varied diet helps ensure ducks get the nutrition they need to support healthy growth and development and sustain them through long migrations. Another critical component to a ducks diet is grit (sand, small pebbles, shells) which helps break down food in their crop and may provide essential minerals like calcium.
Canvasbacks, redheads and scaup feed heavily on roots and tubers, while ring-necked ducks consume more leafy plant material and seeds. Maximizing the diversity of aquatic plant species and growth forms in your duck pond is a good strategy for attracting a variety of waterfowl. You can either take your species list to your local greenhouse and pond supply store or carefully and respectfully harvest wild specimens for transplanting (if its legal to do so).
Millet seed can be sown in prepared soil adjacent to a pond using a variety of methods (broadcast, drilling, fly-on) and will do well with minimal care as long as the young plants arent flooded too early in their development. Wild rice is very good at improving water quality and clarity so consider planting it if your pond needs a bit of a boost. Wild rice is best planted in the fall as its germination is dependent on overwintering in the sediment layer of a pond or stream.
If youre looking to enhance a natural area that is already providing native food sources for ducks, diversity is key. Diversity in habitats and species will ensure you have the best foods for ducks available for your feathered friends no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.
Debate About Feeding Wild Birds
The issue of whether it is all right to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl is a topic of controversy among bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and park officials. There are many myths about feeding wild birds: Some believe that feeding the birds will stop their migration. Whether they are hand-fed or not, some waterfowl species are already non-migrating birds that live in city parks and similar bird habitats.Some people believe the misconception that waterfowl do not have their natural foods at hand in the parks and urban ponds. In reality, they are capable of fending for themselves, finding their food in the wild, and do not require human handouts to survive, no matter the season or how much they beg for treats.One thing the experts all agree on is that too much feeding is unhealthy and can create excess waste and pollution that can destroy habitats and harm birds and other wildlife. Also, leftover, uneaten food can attract rodents, create unpleasant odors, and spread diseases. Some birds that are fed too often can become aggressive, and may become a nuisance if they overpopulate a small area.Birders also agree if you must give ducks or any other wild birds a treat—and no posted notices or local ordinances discourage the practice—then nutritious treats are the best choice to offer.
Duck Food to Avoid
The most common items people feed to ducks and waterfowl are often the least nutritious and most unhealthy. Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn, and similar bread-type products or junk food scraps are not the right foods for birds.Feeding ducks bread is bad because the food has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings’ growth. The uneaten remnants often pollute waterways and attract vermin and other pests. Some people may feed ducks their leftover stale or moldy bread, which should never be fed to the birds: Several types of mold can be fatal to waterfowl.
Duck Habits and Biology
When you think about ducks, you’re probably picturing the Ducks of Disney. You might even toss in Daffy or Darkwing. But ducks come in various species, including dabbling ducks and diving ducks. Dabbling ducks live in shallow water and hunt by dipping their beaks into the water. Diving ducks – as you’d imagine – submerge themselves and get their tails wet.Also, drakes observe daylight savings time … in a way. When the sun starts setting earlier, they know it’s mating season. Their organs then start to grow so they can mate more easily. Social dominance plays a role in size and hierarchy. Some even develop … interesting shapes to facilitate copulation. These organs will shrink back to normal size once the season is over.Unlike many other birds, ducks have wider, flatter, serrated beaks called pectens. When they feed from water bodies, their ‘beak-combs’ help them filter out the water without wasting any food. Wild ducks lay eggs in clutches of eight or nine, laying one per day until they finish. If the duck has pair-bonded (formed a kind of couple), they will stay together for about a year.A female duck will sit on her eggs for 21 to 31 days. She makes a nest and plucks her belly. This leaves a patch of featherless skin that gives her eggs direct contact with her body. The patch lets her share her body heat more effectively, and she turns her eggs and moves them around the nest so that each of her babies gets the same amount of care and hatching time.But domestic ducks are more like chicken so they lay infertile eggs all year round. Usually one per day. So what you feed your ducks depends on whether they’re wild birds or commercial flocks. If you’re keeping them for meat and selling their eggs, their diet will be vastly different from the friendly, colorful ones at the neighborhood pond or nearby beach.Ducks have webbed feet and waterproof feathers to help them swim. Their scientific name is Anatidae. Swans and geese are also considered Anatidae, and there are hundreds of duck species around the world. The common green-headed species is a male mallard. (In the avian world, males are often prettier and more colorful to help them attract willing females.)
Do Ducks Eat Dirt?
You’ll often see ducks pecking in the dirt. So you might assume they like the taste of soil. But they’re more interested in what’s inside the soil. Ducks will scoop mud from puddles and filter the liquid out of their pectens. They’ll retain any worms or grubs hiding in the soil.On dry land, ducks dip their beaks into the soil looking for insects and tiny rodents. You might also see them eating blades of grass. They seem to enjoy the taste, and it’s a good source of fiber so it improves their digestion. So no, ducks don’t eat dirt. They just fish around for living things. But they frequently eat sand, rocks, gravel, and small pebbles.These minute stones help them grind food inside their gizzards and develop healthy eggshells. You can also feed them soluble grit – a commercial mixture of minerals and fine sand. In domestic ducks, providing grit stops the ducks from ingesting potentially harmful stones.
Foods to Avoid When Feeding Ducks
Like squirrels, ducks are omnivorous. They can feast on fruit, seeds, insects, fish, and more. But even with the world as their buffet, ducks have preferences. And if you’re feeding them, you want items they enjoy … but you also want a diet that’s good for them. So what are a duck’s favorite foods? Let’s run through a list of wild, organic, and commercial options.Wild ducks can fly, swim, and their 3
Ducklings learn to swim before they learn how to fly. As soon as they hatch, their mothers guide them to the water for their first lessons. This is probably because there’s more food in the water than in the air – ducks only need to fly when they’re migrating. So here are some tips to consider when you’re feeding ducks, whether it’s a wild flock or a backyard barn.Ducks can fly as high as a commercial plane. And when they sleep, designated guard ducks ‘patrol’ the edges of the flock, keeping one eye open and half their brain awake. So when you feed them, be careful not to startle them or scare them off. They’re extremely quick and alert.
Do ducks eat eggs?
When you domesticate birds, cannibalism is a risk. But ducks rarely attack hatchlings in the same way chickens do. They enjoy fish eggs though so bring on the (low-end) caviar!
Can ducks eat grapes?
Yes, they can. But large grapes might choke wild birds so try cutting the grapes in half (or quarters for larger ones). To be on the safe side, go for seedless grapes.
Why shouldn’t ducks eat bread?
No, it’s not a gluten thing. Just like humans, ducks love the taste and texture of bread. But it’s all carbs and n nutrients. So the ducks get fat and full so they’ll avoid eating their fish and veggies. And they’ll get used to free bread and stop foraging. Over time, their health suffers.
Is it legal to feed ducks?
Check with the park ranger or the local council. Most places are fine with it, as long as you give them healthy food and clean up after yourself. Nobody wants to pick rotting duck food.
Do ducks eat meat?
It depends on what you mean by meat. Ducks will gladly eat insects, lizards, snails, crayfish, and pond fish. They’ll also dip into pet food bowls and roadkill if they’re hungry enough.
Do ducks need supplements?
For domestic ducks, your vet can confirm the right amounts of calcium, niacin, and grit. For wild ducks, they’ll balance their diets naturally with algae and shellfish when they need to.
Can ducks eat beans?
Dried legumes aren’t safe for ducks because they can’t easily digest them. Stick to soft bean sprouts. Ducks are especially fond of peas – fresh or frozen. But always defrost them first.
Do ducks like strawberries?
They do. But if you feel that’s too extravagant for wildfowl, eat the strawberries and save their tops for the ducks. And don’t feed them pre-salted or chocolate-covered-anything!
Can You Feed Ducks Bread?
No, bread is bad for ducks! And you should also not feed ducks crackers, chips, donuts, or popcorn.Just like with humans, these food items offer little nutritional value to birds. Feeding waterfowl these products can lead to malnutrition, disease, and weight gain. It also increases the bird’s dependency on humans and reduces its ability to take care of itself in its natural environment.Bad, bad, bad!Bread has also been linked to a condition called angel wing syndrome that causes a deformity in the bird’s wings, reducing its ability to fly and increasing its vulnerability to attack or other injuries.
So What Can Ducks Eat?
Instead of bread, ducks should eat fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s also safe to feed ducks specially formulated pellets and to let them forage for their own worms and bugs. Below is a more detailed list of foods that are safe to feed ducks.
What to Feed Ducks Instead of Bread
Here are 10 healthier, more environmentally-friendly foods to feed ducks:
Whether it includes millet, sunflower seeds, or another mix, any type of birdseed is safe to feed ducks instead of bread.
Duck Feed Pellets
Specially formulated for ducks, duck feed pellets are commonly fed to ducks that are raised for their eggs and meat. These duck feed pellets float for over an hour reducing the waste that sinks into the water.
You can feed ducks fresh or dried corn. Fresh corn can be defrosted frozen corn or freshly cut from a cob. When it comes to dried corn kernels, be sure to coarsely grind dried corn kernels before you feed ducks cracked corn. By breaking the dried corn kernels into smaller pieces, it’s easier for the ducks to eat.
Oats and Similar Grains
Whether its steel-cut, rolled, or quick, uncooked oats are a better alternative to bread to feed ducks. You can also feed ducks wheat, barley, and similar grains.
Be sure to cut grapes in half- or quarter-size pieces so that they are easier for the duck to eat.
Ducks enjoy a wide range of berries including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
From cantaloupe to honey dew to watermelon, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl love melon.
Fruit with a large seed (or stone) at the center — like cherries, plums, peaches, and apricots are all fine to feed the ducks. However, it’s best to remove the stone first.
Other Fruit Safe for Ducks
Ducks also enjoy apples, pears, and bananas. However, you should avoid feeding ducks mangoes and citrus (like lemons, limes, and oranges).
Both defrosted frozen peas and fresh peas are safe to feed ducks and other waterfowl.
Instead of throwing vegetable scraps in the trash or grinding them up in your garbage disposal, save them to feed the ducks. Ducks enjoy carrot and cucumber peelings, radish tops, and lettuce trimmings. Just be sure to chop the vegetable scraps into small pieces before feeding the ducks.
From mealworms to earthworms, you can feed ducks worms. However, ducks should be actively seeking natural food sources and should be able to find worms on their own.
Can You Feed Ducks Bananas?
Yes, like most fruits, bananas are safe to feed ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?
It’s fine to feed ducks chicken feed. But ducks, and especially ducklings, need more niacin in their diets than chicken feed provides. Ensure ducks get the niacin they need by sprinkling nutritional yeast on their chicken feed and offering niacin-rich foods like peas, raw or cooked sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.
Can Ducks Eat Corn?
Yes, it is safe to feed ducks dried cracked corn, fresh corn cut from the cob, and defrosted frozen corn kernels.
Can Ducks Eat Crackers?
No! Like bread, crackers and other processed grains with little nutritional value are bad for ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Cucumbers?
Yes! Ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl enjoy a wide variety of vegetables and vegetable scraps. Whether you feed the ducks cucumber peelings or pieces of cucumber, be sure to chop them into small pieces first.
Is it OK to Feed Ducks Peas?
Yes! Like corn, ducks can eat both fresh and frozen defrosted peas.
Do Ducks Eat Lettuce?
Ducks enjoy a wide range of vegetables, including lettuce and other leafy vegetables. But just as you should limit the amount of iceberg lettuce you consume (due to its limited nutritional value), the same is true for ducks. Feed ducks romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, or chard instead.
Can Ducks Eat Millet?
Millet is a cereal crop similar to barley, rice, and wheat. This starchy grain is grown for human food as well as animal feed. And like other grains, millet is safe to feed ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Peanuts?
Peanuts are safe for ducks to eat, but they should be offered sparingly. And like dried corn, it’s best to roughly chop the peanuts before feeding them to ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Popcorn?
No! While it’s safe to feed ducks fresh, dried, or defrosted corn kernels, it is not safe to feed ducks popcorn.
Can Ducks Eat Potato Chips?
No! Potato chips are on the list of empty calorie no nos like bread and crackers. Do not feed potato chips to ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Potato Skins?
While ducks enjoy eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, you should avoid feeding ducks potato skins. Potatoes are part of the nightshade family and toxic to ducks. In addition to potato skins, do not feed ducks tomatoes, eggplants, or bell peppers as these plants are also nightshades.
Can Ducks Eat Radishes?
Yes, like cucumber peelings and cucumber pieces, ducks can eat radish tops and diced radishes.
Can You Feed Ducks Rice?
Yes, it is safe to feed ducks rice, either cooked or uncooked.
Can Ducks Eat Rice Cakes?
While rice cakes are made from rice (which is safe to feed ducks), they also include ingredients like sugar, fructose, and other ingredients that are not good for ducks. So stick to rice rather than rice cakes when feeding the ducks.
Can Ducks Eat Steel Cut Oats?
Yes! Similar to millet, rice, and other cereal crops, oats are safe to feed ducks. Sprinkle quick, rolled, or steel-cut oats out for ducks.
What Fruits are Safe for Ducks?
From berries to stone fruits to melons, most fruit is safe to feed ducks. Even bananas! Just be sure to remove the stones, seeds, and core before feeding fruit to ducks. And, you should never feed ducks mangoes, lemons, limes, oranges, or other citrus fruits.
It may surprise you to learn that ducks are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Depending on the duck, they consume an impressive variety of foods: earthworms, snails, slugs, mollusks, small fish, fish eggs, small crustaceans, grass, herbaceous plants, leaves, aquatic plants (green parts and the roots), algae, amphibians (tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, etc.), insects, seeds, grains, berries and nuts. A varied diet helps ensure ducks get the nutrition they need to support healthy growth and development and sustain them through long migrations.Another critical component to a duck’s diet is grit (sand, small pebbles, shells) which helps break down food in their crop and may provide essential minerals like calcium.A number of factors help narrow down the smorgasbord if you’re looking to track down or attract a specific species:
Millet is an excellent attractant for ducks. Golden and Japanese varieties have been developed to grow quickly and prolifically in a variety of conditions–far more cheaply than corn–making them very popular with folks trying to establish duck food plots. With two or even three crops in a season, millet will self-seed and provide forage for ducks for an extended period.Millet is best planted about 75 days before the first frost date in your area. Millet seed can be sown in prepared soil adjacent to a pond using a variety of methods (broadcast, drilling, fly-on) and will do well with minimal care as long as the young plants aren’t flooded too early in their development.
For grain supply, consider planting wild rice (zizania aquatica). This native North American aquatic grain is an annual, but should self-seed once established. Wild rice is very good at improving water quality and clarity so consider planting it if your pond needs a bit of a boost.Wild rice is best planted in the fall as its germination is dependent on overwintering in the sediment layer of a pond or stream. Plant your seeds immediately after purchase. Seeds that dry out will not germinate. If all goes well, you will start to see young plants growing underwater in May. Wild rice reaches maturity in September and will be two to eight feet above the water line.
Native Plants for Your Duck Pond
The Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri offers the following tips for planting aquatic vegetation:
Enhancing Native Food Sources
If you’re looking to enhance a natural area that is already providing native food sources for ducks, diversity is key.If you have a field, add a pond. If you have a pond, clear an area for field-based foods. Within the pond itself, try and enhance or create both marshy and open water environments.Plant an array of species to help ensure you always have something beneficial growing. Plant pondweeds and wild celery in the deepest areas of your pond, smartweed and wild rice in the mid-depths and millet and corn in the shallows. A healthy diversity of plant species should attract and support a healthy faunal diversity without further assistance from you.Diversity in habitats and species will ensure you have the best foods for ducks available for your feathered friends no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.