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What Can Ducks Eat & Not Eat? (3 Things to Never Feed Them)

Ducks can eat fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, rice, corn, insects, and more. These are all part of ducks’ natural diet. Ducks should not be fed bread, junk food, or moldy foods.

Duck feeding is a popular activity. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know what to feed ducks.

Most people even feed them things that are outright unhealthy and harmful to ducks.

By knowing what not to feed them, you can help keep ducks healthy. In this article, we’ll tell you what you should, and shouldn’t, feed ducks.

What Can Ducks Eat?

Ducks are omnivores, meaning they can eat both plant matter and meat. The majority of their diet consists of vegetation, seeds, and grain, while the rest consists of insects, small fish, and similar foods.

Ducks can eat most things. They will eat almost anything that’s in front of them, though not everything is healthy for them.

Here’s a list of healthy food you can feed ducks:

  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Corn
  4. Grains
  5. Seeds
  6. Small Insects
  7. Water Vegetation (Such as duckweed)
  8. Slugs & Snails
  9. Earthworms
  10. Cheese

Fruits

Most wild ducks eat fruit, whenever they can find it. However, fruit should only make up a small part of a duck’s diet.

There are plenty of fruits that ducks can have, such as watermelon, grapes, bananas, strawberries, blackberries, and many more.

As fruits are high in calories and sugar, they should only work as snacks and supplements to ducks’ main diet. They’re, however, great sources of vitamins and minerals.

If you want to feed ducks fruits, make sure to cut them into small pieces.

sliced strawberries

Vegetables & Vegetation

Vegetation makes up about 80% of a duck’s diet. These are things such as plants found at the bottom of a lake, duckweed, and similar.

Most vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals which help keep ducks healthy. Vegetables also provide fiber, water, antioxidants, and various nutrients.

Ducks will happily munch on different kinds of vegetables including leafy greens, silverbeet (chard), endive, celery, peas, broccoli, wheatgrass, and basil. 

Make sure what you offer them is thoroughly washed to avoid any harmful chemicals or pesticides. Some vegetables should also be cooked before they can be eaten by ducks.

duck on green grass

Corn & Other Grains

Corn and grains are great for ducks, and typically make up a significant portion of their diet on farms, and even in the wild.

Corn is a type of grain that many farmers feed ducks because it is easy to grow and inexpensive. 

However, it’s not the only type of grain ducks that should be fed. Ducks cannot live on just corn, they need protein in order to survive. 

Other grains that ducks can be given as part of their diet include:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Flaxseed
  • Rice
  • Soybeans
  • Malt sprouts
  • Beet pulp or dried beet pulp
Corn kernels

Small Insects

Ducks are omnivorous animals, meaning they eat both plants and animals. 

While their diets can vary depending on their location, ducks tend to feed primarily on small insects such as water flies, snails (particularly apple snails), and mosquito larvae for protein.

Insects can be a great treat for ducks to eat, but you will want to make sure that they are not from an area where pesticides have been used. 

Ducks also love crickets and grasshoppers, which can be a great source of protein and fat.

lone duck quacking

What Can Ducks Not Eat?

Ducks can’t eat too much bread, junk food, or moldy and old food. Eating these are bad for them, and will cause health problems.

Every living thing has a wide range of foods that they can eat. But we also have some foods that we can’t eat. 

Ducks are no different; they need certain foods in their diet, while others are bad for them. 

Knowing what ducks can and cannot eat is important if you keep ducks yourself, or you intend to feed ducks. 

Here is a list of foods that ducks cannot eat (no matter how much they want to).

Bread & Chips

Bread and chips are the two food items that we humans love to feed ducks, but they are actually some of the worst foods you can give them.

White bread is like junk food for ducks; it’s bad for them because it doesn’t have any nutritional value [3]. While dark bread is somewhat better, it’s still not as good as other foods.

Chips are made from potatoes, which do not fit into a duck’s diet. On top of that, they’re fried, which is empty calories.

Related: Can ducks eat bread?

duck eating bread

Junk Food

Ducks cannot eat junk food. It does more harm than good, so make sure to keep it away from ducks. 

If you’re feeding ducks, while you’re eating junk food yourself, don’t throw them some. It’s bad for them and can cause them to develop health issues down the road.

You should also always make sure to clean up after yourself when you’re feeding ducks. Avoid leaving any garbage or junk food around.

Ducks need a diet that has lots of nutrients and vitamins. Junk food does not provide these things. Junk foods are usually very high in fat, salt, and sugar that ducks don’t need. 

duckling eating

Moldy & Old Food

When it comes to moldy food, keep it away from ducks. Some people are tempted to feed old food to animals because they don’t want to eat it themselves.

However, this may cause harm to the animals, especially ducks.

If you have any moldy food or see some laying around near ducks, remove it instead of feeding it to them.

duck foraging food on the ground

What Food Kills Ducks?

Food that can kill ducks includes avocados, onions, citrus, nuts, chocolate, bread, popcorn, or any food that’s too big for them to swallow.

While ducks can eat most food, some items can cause immediate damage to them. Others cause problems when fed to ducks regularly, or otherwise in large amounts.

Ducks have very sensitive digestive systems, so they have to eat a diet that matches their system. Certain types of foods can kill ducks if not fed in moderation.

Too much of the following foods can cause health issues for ducks, ultimately resulting in death:

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Citrus
  • Onions
  • Popcorn
  • Bread

Unfortunately, most people aren’t taught that bread is bad for ducks. Instead, most people are taught that it’s healthy for them.

This is not true, as bread can cause serious damage over a longer period.

In addition, feeding ducks too many fruits can also be harmful. They’ll eat too many calories, and too much sugar, which can result in health issues.

nuts and dried fruits

What Do Ducks Eat In the Wild?

Wild ducks eat a variety of grains, grasses, aquatic plants, and invertebrates, off of which make up a balanced and nutritional diet.

Like most other wild animals, ducks know what to look for in the wild. They’ve learned what to eat, and what not to eat when foraging for food.

Some of the most common foods that wild ducks eat are:

  • Grains (wheat, barley, or similar grains.)
  • Grasses (southern naiad, wild celery, wigeon grass)
  • Aquatic Plants (duckweed)
  • Invertebrates (insects)

As ducks are waterfowl, they typically feed off of foods that they can find around bodies of water. 

ducks eating on the grass

What to Feed Ducks Instead of Bread

Have you ever gone to a lake or pond, expecting to feed bread to ducks only to be surprised when they ignore it? It turns out that most ducks do not eat bread.

Unlike what the name suggests, it is actually quite common for ducks and geese to go hungry. When pond and lake visitors feed ducks bread, we are doing more harm than good.

Ducks and geese normally eat a variety of plants, seeds, and insects. Unfortunately for them, most people like to feed the birds white bread which does not provide any nutritional value for the waterfowl. Bread is a type of junk food for these birds and can lead to obesity, malnutrition, or starvation depending on how much bread is being consumed.

While bread is not good for most ducks and geese, there are foods that they will enjoy eating instead! Below are some treats that will not hurt the animals but provide them with nutrition. 

Seeds

Ducks, and geese, love to eat seeds. Seeds from your own backyard, or ones that you buy, can be a great option, provided that the plants have not been sprayed with harmful chemicals.

Cracked Corn

Cracked corn is a great substitute for bread and can be purchased at any feed store. They provide ducks with plenty of nutritional value.

Oats

Leftover oats from breakfast can be used as an excellent source of nutrition for the waterfowl. It is important to note that some ducks will not eat oats.

Vegetables & Fruits

Many ducks enjoy eating peas, corn, green beans, lima beans, watermelon, grapes, and more. Just make sure that you serve vegetables and fruits in bite-sied pieces, as ducks don’t chew.

Mealworms/Garden Tender

Ducks, and geese, love to munch on mealworms. Growing your own mealworms is an easy thing to do, and can provide plenty of fun feeding ducks.

Dog Food

Some people choose to feed ducks dog food, which you definitely can. Just make sure not to overdo it. Dry dog food should also be ground up or softened.

Related: Can ducks eat dog food?

Tips for Feeding Ducks

When feeding ducks, remember not to overfeed them, only offer bite-sized foods, and clean up after yourself.

Feeding ducks is a popular way for bird enthusiasts to enjoy watching these beautiful creatures up close. 

However, it’s important to do so in a way that is safe and healthy for the ducks. Here are some tips for feeding ducks without harming them or the environment.

1. Don’t Overfeed Them

Feeding ducks can be a fun outdoor activity for adults and children alike, but too much food can cause issues.

If you feed them too much, it can cause a loss of natural behavior. The ducks will become used to you feeding them, and will hence stop looking for food themselves.

They’ll also get too many calories, especially if you’re feeding them the wrong food. Ducks tend to eat everything they’re offered, which is why they’ll overeat.

ducklings on the farm

2. Only Offer Food in Bite-Sized Pieces

One of the most common mistakes that people make when feeding ducks is to offer large pieces of food. 

Ducks don’t chew, hence offering too large pieces of food will cause problems:

  • Ducks often choke and die.
  • Ducks will often become bloated and die from internal obstruction.
duckling drinking water

3. Clean Up After Yourself

Unfortunately, not everyone is considerate or cares about what they leave behind. This often leads to an unhealthier living environment for ducks and other wildlife.     

Ducks are scavengers by nature. They will eat almost anything that they can come by, which is why foods that you leave behind can cause problems.

By cleaning up after yourself, you’re ensuring that ducks don’t eat your trash, and will hence stay healthier.

duck drinking

Should You Feed Ducks?

There’s no harm in feeding ducks, as long as you stick to the rules of not overfeeding them, not feeding them bad foods, and not feeding them anything that could otherwise cause harm.

Ducks are very entertaining animals. They’re gentle, calm, and many people find them very beautiful.

If you want to feed ducks, go ahead. But make sure you follow a few rules:

  1. Don’t overfeed them
  2. Don’t feed them bad foods
  3. Don’t feed them too large pieces
  4. Clean up after yourself

Conclusion

It’s important to be mindful of the food you feed ducks. Feeding them bread or anything with a lot of carbs can make them sick. If you plan on feeding ducks, make sure you give them something healthy, such as grains, seeds, vegetables, or small insects.

You should also make sure not to overfeed ducks, or feed them too large pieces, as this can cause health problems down the line for ducks.

There are generally three types of food to avoid when feeding ducks: bread, junk food, and old food.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.