Bread crumbs are off the list! What do ducks eat now?


Its not even a year since Webb Park came out with the notification that visitors could not feed the ducks in the park. That’s not all! The Canal and River Trust also made a similar plea when it directed park officials all through the USA to categorically stop giving bread crumbs (an often chosen food) to the ducks. Are you surprised? Did you always think that ducks ate bread crumbs and small snails to survive? Well, that’s not true! So, what do ducks eat

As you scroll down this article, you will get a detailed idea about their feed, what is the most common of them, and the dietary differences between the regular ducks and the wild ones. Let’s get to the specifics – 

What do ducks eat on a regular basis? 

For starters, you must understand that ducks hang out in large groups, and their feeding habits are characteristically determined by their aquatic surroundings. Also, being omnivorous in nature, they consume a host of things – from insects to amphibians and fishes. 

Given their flat beaks with soft edges, pulling out aquatic foliage becomes easier, especially for pintails and mallards. Quite to the contrary – the mergansers with their serrated, hooked bills prefer to eat fish. 

This is not all! There’s more story behind this – 

If you are asking for a quick pick about what do ducks eat – the available options include – rolled oats or instant porridge/ both cooked and uncooked rice/ sweetcorn, raw peas, bird seed, cracked corn, sliced grapes, grains (wheat, barley), mealworms, and peels of vegetables (sliced into small thin pieces). 

Apart from that – 

  • Ducks eat meat – 

As you have already noted, ducks eat small frogs and tadpoles (which, technically for them, are equivalent to meat). Apart from that, they derive their protein from diving beetles, pond skaters, to snails. However, they do not have the physical capacity to digest any type of comparatively heavy meat (be it the usual white or red meat – even if they are sliced into small pieces). 

  • They have a food fest in the ponds 

For those who are wondering what do ducks eat in a pond, let’s assure you – for them, that’s nothing short of a food party! The alternatives available to satiate their nutritional value include – crustaceans, a variety of worms (their primary source of protein), pondweed, shellfish, and microscopic insects.

  • If they are on the grass 

Since they have beaks with sharp edges, therefore, they are styled to pull out light vegetation from the grass (which they mostly feed on). Along with that, when flocking on the grass, they also have larvae and slugs. 

  • Diet for the winters 

Though there is no specific duck diet for the winter, however, since the availability of food is lower, therefore they tend to forage categorically on small invertebrates and insects. They provide the required fat content for the waterfowls to survive the winters. 

  • If they are poultry ducks 

If you are interested specifically in knowing what do ducks eat in poultry set-up, then tick is your answer! In fact, poultry farmers use ducks to save their brood from ticks. 

Do wild ducks eat something different? 

As far as wild ducks are concerned – a long time ago, BBC reported wild mallard ducks to be feeding on small migratory birds. That was one isolated incident. However, generally speaking, wild ducks normally feed on – 

  • Foliage (water and land inclusive) such as – aquatic weeds, flowers, grains, berries, or even available seeds. In most cases, their eating habits are determined by their aquatic surroundings. 
  • Apart from foliage, if you want to know about what do ducks eat in the wild, you will find more than one incident where they have eaten small fish or snails from the pond. 
  • In fact, there have been multiple reports of ducks eating – shellfish, mollusks, tadpoles, frog spawns, and even fish eggs! 

Therefore, as a standing statement, one may surely state that ducks are omnivorous with a wide diet range. 

Why giving bread to ducks has become such an issue? 

Every time somebody asked what do ducks eat – if there was nothing on one’s mind (or hand), they could easily get past this question with breadcrumbs. However, recent surveys and reports from animal welfare organizations have categorically prevented feeding bread to the waterfowl. Why has this happened suddenly? What is the issue? Here’s the details – 

  • Bread does not provide any nutrition to ducks. Especially for ducklings, this has absolutely no value and hinders their development and growth. 
  • This increases the rate of infection in ducks. A carb-rich diet will automatically lead to greater defecation and increase the chances of avian botulism. Also, in case the bread turns out to be moldy, then there is a high possibility of this causing aspergillosis – a fatal lung infection in ducks. 
  • Topping it all, if you feed bread to ducks for a long time, then they may either become overweight or malnourished. In fact, there have been multiple cases wherein ducks who have been fed on bread have had deformed wings affecting their flight. 

Taking these concerns into mind – it is best to stay away from feeding bread to ducks. 

However, apart from bread, there is a list of other things that you must not feed a duck. Note them down – 

What you must not give to the ducks? 

Along with what you can feed the ducks is a list of things that does not make the duck feed. You must never feed a duck – popcorn (or any other crispy food) since they cannot digest those. Apart from that, never feed a duck anything sweet, crackers, spinach, onion, citrus fruits, and avocados. Be cautious while feeding the ducks. \

#For those who are unaware – ducks do not chew their food and hence swallow them whole. To ensure that this does not cause an issue, they are blessed with gizzards (specialized stomachs) that grind the hard-to-digest food. 

What is the correct way to feed ducks? 

Understanding what do ducks eat is not enough. You must also know the right way to feed them. When you are feeding the ducks, rather than leaving huge piles of food for them on the ground, spread a small quantity of food on the water. Rather than the ground, they are more comfortable having food from water, and it reduces the chances of food adulteration. 

If you are feeding ducks with your hand, then ensure that you minimize the noise levels around since ducks get scared easily. 

Wrapping up 

Since you have a better idea about what do ducks eat, then it is better that you stick to the guidelines and feed the ducks the categorized feed. Also, on a parting note, ensure that the duck feed you buy is from a reputed company that does not include any artificial colors or preservatives. For further queries about your favorite waterfowl, keep following this page! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1.What do ducks typically eat in the wild?

Ans: Ducks in the wild primarily feed on a diet consisting of aquatic plants, grasses, seeds, insects, small fish, and amphibians. They are omnivorous and adapt their diet based on seasonal availability.

Q2.What should I feed ducks if I encounter them in a park or pond?

Ans: If you encounter ducks in a park or pond, it is best to feed them nutritious foods that mimic their natural diet. Suitable options include cracked corn, peas, lettuce, spinach, oats, or birdseed. It is important to offer them these foods in moderation and avoid providing them with bread, as it lacks nutritional value and can be harmful to their health.

Q3.Can ducks eat fruits and vegetables?

Ans: Yes, ducks can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. They particularly enjoy foods like sliced grapes, apples, watermelon, peas, and lettuce. Ensure that any fruits or vegetables offered to ducks are cut into small, manageable pieces for them to consume easily.

Q4.Is it okay to feed ducks bread?

Ans: No, it is not recommended to feed ducks bread. Although it is a common practice, bread has little nutritional value and can lead to malnutrition and various health problems in ducks. Feeding them bread can also contribute to water pollution and promote the growth of harmful bacteria in ponds or lakes.

Q5.Can ducks eat commercial poultry feed?

Ans: Ducks can consume commercial poultry feed, but it is important to select the appropriate type. Regular poultry feed may not meet all of a duck’s nutritional requirements, as ducks require higher levels of niacin compared to chickens. Therefore, it is recommended to use a specifically formulated waterfowl feed or supplement their diet with niacin-rich foods like fish meal, brewer’s yeast, or niacin supplements. Consulting a veterinarian or a poultry expert can help ensure that ducks receive a balanced diet.



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