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What do Ducks and Other Wildfowl Eat?

Treat Foods for Wild Birds

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The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

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.

Debate About Feeding Wild Birds

The issue of whether it is alright to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl is a topic of controversy among bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and park officials. Myths are swirling around what happens when you feed wild birds. Some believe that feeding the birds will stop their migration. Whether they are hand-fed or not, some waterfowl species are already year-round residents of city parks and similar 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.

If you feed ducks or geese at a local pond or park, offer these nutritious duck foods instead of unhealthy bread.

Six things you didn’t know you could feed ducks

A lifeline during lockdown

Local waterways have been an escape for many during these difficult times. Our work to protect them is more urgent than ever.

We’re on a mission to improve the health of our wild birds across the country. Do you know what you should feed ducks to keep them healthy?

Can you feed ducks bread?

There are actually a few reasons why you should avoid feeding ducks bread. For starters, bread is not very nutritional for ducks. Can you imagine the health implications if you only ate bread as your diet?

Not only is it not nutritious, bread will attract many other birds and cause overcrowding, which in turn results in an increase in droppings. This can cause further disruption, such as slippery surfaces and possible damage to habitats and waterways.

To find out more, read our article on why is bread bad for ducks?

So what can you feed ducks?

We’ve put together a list of six different foods that you can use as duck feed, instead of bread.

1. Sweetcorn

It turns out that ducks are quite partial to sweetcorn. Tinned, frozen or fresh. Obviously, remove them from the tin first.

2. Lettuce

As a nation we’re guilty of throwing away a vast amount of lettuce, especially the bagged variety. Instead of consigning it to the bin, rip it into pieces and treat your local ducks. Rocket, kale and iceberg are all great choices.

3. Frozen peas

There’s no need to cook them but make sure you defrost them first.

4. Oats

Flapjacks, rolled oats and even instant porridge oats will be a huge hit with ducks.

5. Seeds

Whether you buy bird seed or just seeds from the fruit and nut aisle in the supermarket, the ducks will be very grateful for these nutritious nibbles.

6. Rice

Ducks will appreciate a handful of leftover rice from a takeaway. Just remember to keep the crispy duck all to yourself. You can also use uncooked rice, both are fine.

Summary

In conclusion, is it okay to feed ducks bread? No, there are many other types of food you can use instead, which will cause less overcrowding and a less stressful environment for ducks and swans. A healthy duck is a happy duck.

Play ‘Hook a Duck’

Play this fun game from our Explorers team

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Last date edited: 1 February 2021

We're on a mission to improve the health of our wild birds across the country. Do you know what to feed ducks to keep them healthy? Just use our handy guide.