Feeding ducks and other waterfowl is a great activity for all the family. It allows children to get closer to nature and nurture a lifelong love of animals, and adults to sit back and enjoy the relaxing activity. However, what to feed ducks has caused some controversy over recent years. With ducks in Leicester dying after being fed rotten bread[i] and so many conflicting opinions published on what is good or bad for them, it can be difficult to know what is safe to take with you to the pond. To help you decide what to take on your next trip to the duck pond, here is your definitive guide on what to feed ducks.
What Do Ducks Eat?
Not all ducks are fortunate enough to settle in a park pond with willing feeders passing by every day. In the wild, a duck’s diet will vary depending on its species and habitat. However, as omnivores, ducks in the wild will generally eat:
- Aquatic plants
- Small fish
- Fish eggs
- Small crustaceans
To help them digest these food stuffs, wild ducks will also eat sources of grit, such as sand or gravel. These help them grind the food in their gizzards and create healthy eggshells.
Can You Feed Ducks Bread?
Bread has been a questionable feeding choice for ducks for many years now. The starchy food provides little nutritional value and too much of it reduces the chance of ducks foraging for their regular diet, which may lead to malnutrition[iii].
However, the general consensus is that bread is okay for ducks, but only in small amounts. Since you can never be certain how many other well-meaning people have fed bread to the ducks that you are visiting, it is best to choose a mix of other foods so you can provide some of their vital nutrients while enjoying the activity[iv].
What To Feed Ducks
Take a look at our graphic for a quick overview on what you can, and can’t, feed ducks.
We explore this in more detail below.
1) Specialist Duck Food
Regular bird seed can become waterlogged and pollute their environment. It can also be fattening to ducks if they are fed it too regularly. Feed which is specifically formulated for ducks provides the same nutrients and vitamins as seed without the fatty side effects, and most formulas float to avoid polluting the water and ensuring ducks can access it easily.
Browse our range of excellent value duck food.
You can feed cracked corn, frozen kernels or corn cut straight from the cob to ducks. It is packed with healthy nutrients, protein and fibre that ducks need for a healthy diet. Many domestic duck owners suggest that cracked corn is best since it is easier for them to digest, but any corn that you have spare will do. It’s best to mix a bit of corn with bird seed or other duck-friendly food stuff since too much corn may have adverse effects on ducks[v].
Ducks can eat a variety of fresh fruit, including watermelon, berries, halved grapes, bananas and cantaloupe melon. There are some fruits that ducks can’t eat – but the majority of fruits are full of nutrients that ducks need. Of course you should take out any stones and chop up the fruit into little pieces to make them digestible. Also, it’s best to take out any seeds too, as you never know if ducks may choke on them or not.
Raw and cooked vegetables are as healthy for ducks as they are for us and are perfect for every visit to the duck pond. Some good vegetables that ducks enjoy include:
Peas are particularly good for young ducks, since they provide niacin, a vitamin essential to growth. You can feed them frozen vegetables, but you must let them fully defrost before doing so.
All species of waterfowl enjoy mealworms because they are a strong source of protein. Protein is particularly important to ducks throughout winter and during their breeding season, so these are the best times to take mealworms to your local duck pond.
We supply a great variety of mealworms at value prices.
Most types of oats are safe to feed to ducks, but the best ones to take are rolled oats and instant porridge oats. These shouldn’t be a regular fixture in a duck’s diet, but they do contain antioxidants and are high in fibre. You can even feed ducks small pieces of flapjack, as long as there isn’t an overabundance of added sugar.
What Not to Feed Ducks
Spinach & Onions
Spinach and onions are the only vegetables that ducks can’t eat. Spinach can interfere with a duck’s calcium production, which can lead to egg binding issues in female ducks. Onions, and similar vegetables, may cause diarrhoea and vomiting in ducks, and could even lead to a serious blood condition called haemolytic anaemia.
All parts of the avocado plants, including the skin, are completely toxic to ducks, and should be completely avoided. Avocado contains the fungal toxin persin, and even a little part of this toxin can cause heart failure, killing a small bird in less than 48 hours[vi].
Fruits With High Acid Contents
Fruits with a high acid content, including citrus fruits, mangos and pineapples, can cause indigestion and stomach issues in ducks. The acid in these fruits can cause inflammation and extreme thirst, which may ultimately lead to death[vii].
Although ducks can eat healthy grains and oats, many cereals contain little of these. All cereals, including cornflakes, should be kept away from ducks since they are often high in sugar and contain additives.
Any kind of junk food, including crisps, chocolate, cakes, biscuits or sweets, should be kept far away from ducks. The various chemical substances found in this food can have severe effects on a duck’s digestive system and may even affect the central nervous system, leading to seizures and potential death[viii].
Although popcorn kernels are rather small, ducks are unable to digest them properly. Kernels may get stuck in their throat, and lead to more serious problems. On top of this, popcorn is high in salt, sugar and saturated fats. An overload of these will cause digestive and faecal issues in ducks[ix].
Now You Know What to Feed Ducks
Feeding ducks is such a fun activity for all the family and being uncertain what to feed ducks shouldn’t put a stop to that! As long as you provide your feathered friends with a variety of foods full of healthy nutrients and vitamins, you can be sure that they are getting just as much good out of your visit as you are.
Gemma Sharp is the resident writer for Garden Wildlife Direct, a supplier of premium bird food and accessories. She has had a genuine love for our feathered friends from a young age, and has dedicated a lot of her time to learning all there is to know about them. If you’re struggling to pick the right bird feed for your garden, need help identifying a type of wild bird, or can’t decide where to put a nesting box, Gemma is the person to go to! She is passionate about sharing her years of learnt knowledge with the public. In her free time, she can be found feeding birds at home with her three young boys.