Ducks spend a lot of their time eating, in fact, as much as two to four hours a day. This can add up to about eighty hours a month just eating. In the wild, ducks eat for between one-third and one-half of their lives. In captivity, however, our feathered friends have been known to eat almost constantly. Domestic ducks in captivity have been known to eat within twenty minutes of being fed and then go twenty minutes without eating again after that. In a full year, a duck can gobble up sixty percent of its body weight in food each year or twice its weight in food every month.

Ducks are omnivores. They will eat whatever they can find to eat. They will also eat other ducks’ food if it is thrown to them at the right time. They are also opportunists who will eat anything given to them by another animal irrespective of whether the item was meant for them. So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at their natural diet.

What Do Ducks Eat In The Wild?

A selective focus shot of cute ducks eating seeds

Before we look at what to feed ducks when they’re domesticated or pets, let’s find out their natural sources and food preferences when they are out in the wild.

Plantlife

Ducks eat mostly plants, insects, and some fish. They also drink water from ponds and lakes. In the wild, they’ll eat various plants such as pondweed, algae, sedges, mosses and fresh grass. They will also feed on algae-covered rocks in the wild and on a number of aquatic plants found near underwater vegetation or by riversides.

Insects and Invertebrates

Insects such as snails, worms, water beetles, water bugs and aquatic larvae such as catfish and mosquito larvae are also natural foods for ducks. These insects live near the surfaces that the ducks naturally use to feed on. Since they naturally stick around in that area, eating these insects is an alternative rather than leaving the area where they naturally eat and find food elsewhere.

Ducks will also eat some aquatic invertebrates, which is their primary source of protein. Aquatic invertebrates include mollusks and crustaceans, and these organisms live in or near aquatic vegetation, mud and rocks where they burrow into it to hide from predators.

Fish

Fish are also an important food for ducks. They’ll small fish that live in or near water and survive by avoiding exposure to sunlight. Fish that duck eat include carp, sunfish, catfish, koi (also known as Japanese carps), many types of sucker fish, eels and sometimes frogs. Carp are the most common aquatic fish eaten by wild ducks because carp are relatively easy prey to catch with their mouths. They will also eat fish eggs when available.

Reptiles

Ducks also reach out to eat lizards and snakes which live in ponds within their range. They can eat a venomous snake or a non-venomous snake without any harmful effects from the venom, but ducks also need to pay attention to what they eat. In general, wild ducks prefer warm-blooded, predator species with smooth scales and protected hides. They will only eat species that are not poisonous or dangerous enough to harm a duck under normal circumstances.

What To Feed Ducks

Feeding ducks in public

What should you feed ducks? Have you just purchased or adopted some and are curious about their diet? Perhaps you’re making a trip to the local park and wondering what ducks eat? Below is some detail that should have you covered.

Wheatgrass (Grass)

Wheatgrass is another popular, easy-to-grow alternative food for ducks. Wheatgrass is extremely high in protein and is a great energy source for the ducks to help keep them healthy, energetic and active. Wheatgrass can be added to your ducks’ diets as part of a natural feeding regimen that will ensure their health and longevity. Other foods such as corn and lettuce should be given to ducks in preference. Ducks should never be fed human foods such as potato chips, french fries, candy or soda.

Corn and Corn Meals

Corn is one of the most popular grains used to feed ducks and ducklings, but other grains can be given to ducks instead. Cornmeal is a great source of energy for the ducks, and it will help keep them healthy, active and full of life. However, cornmeal can cause problems if ingested by your ducks. If they eat large amounts, it could lead to obesity and fatty liver disease. Feeding corn meal can also cause intestinal blockage in ducks, and it can also cause diarrhoea in your ducklings or older birds.

Oats

The best food for ducks in captivity is oats. Oats will provide your ducks with enough energy that they need to stay healthy, active and full of life. Even instant porridge oats are rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus, which is very important for your pets to stay healthy.

Vegetable Scraps

Ducks can eat most leafy vegetables, but they should never be fed leftover foods that contain meat or dairy products. When feeding your ducks vegetables, make sure that you don’t give them any spoiled vegetables! Also, make sure they’re in small pieces.

Avoid feeding your ducks potatoes because it has high amounts of starch which is different from the starch in corn. This can lead to intestinal problems. Feeding ducklings too many carrots can also cause intestinal blockages.

Lettuce

Another food source to consider is lettuce. Lettuce contains iron and calcium and is high in vitamin A and C and heart-healthy folate. You can usually feed this vegetable as a supplement to other foods you offer them, such as vegetables, fruits and grains, because of its soft texture.

Seeds

Duck feed is often made up of seeds, which are high in carbohydrates and calories for your ducks. These seeds are easy to find in the form of feed pellets, but you can also buy dehydrated duck food that contains all the things in duck feed. Dehydrated duck food will help you feed your ducks when you are out of time. Making duck feed at home can be a fun experience, so you should give it a try when the time comes to learn how to make this kind of food.

Rice

They can also eat cooked or uncooked rice. Cooked rice is a good source of energy and protein and will also help them stay healthy by providing them with nutrients such as manganese, niacin and vitamin B6. Rice is rich in vitamins and minerals, and it is also low in fat which is ideal to feed ducks especially if they are young ducklings.

Green Beans

People commonly use green beans to grow in backyard gardens, but they are also quite common for feeding ducks because they contain high amounts of carbohydrates, protein and energy.

Frozen Peas

Frozen peas are among the many food items you can feed your duck. Peas are very nutritious and high in iron, thiamine, fibre, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin and zinc. Frozen peas are also low in fat which is another of the health benefits of feeding ducks.

Duck Feed Pellets

Duck pellets are one of the best alternatives to feeding them bread. Most duck pellets are made from corn, soybeans, wheat and wheat products. They are easy-to-feed natural feed that will provide ducks and swans with healthy food that contains all the nutrients they need to be healthy, happy and active. Feeding duck pellets will also help you to keep your ducks in good condition, which is very important when raising baby waterfowl.

What Not To Feed Ducks

Human feeds a wild duck white bread.

It’s lovely to see families walking along the canal feeding ducks and geese, moorhens, swans and other waterfowl. However, because ducks will eat almost anything, we’re often guilty of giving them leftover food, especially bread. But whether they should eat it or not is a different question. Below are a few things that you should avoid feeding ducks.

Bread

People often ask, “is it OK to feed ducks bread?” There’s no doubt that ducks love bread, even stale bread! Bread is a good source of energy for and they will eat it in the wild and in captivity in preference to almost any other food.

However, bread has little nutritional value and isn’t the best thing to feed ducks. Feeding bread can also be dangerous if it gets stuck in their teeth or if they accidentally swallow large bread pieces. Even bite-sized pieces have been known to cause issues in the past. It can also cause a condition known as angel wing, which causes deformities in the wings of ducks and geese.

Citrus Fruits

Although fruit is excellent for humans, citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits should be avoided when feeding ducks at all costs. They can suffer from a wide range of ailments if they consume a large amount of citrus fruits. Citrus fruit can also cause inflammation in your ducks’ digestive system, and it can lead to excessive thirst in birds which could ultimately lead to death.

Avocado

Avocado is another food that you should never feed your ducks because it could cause them to suffer from avian digestive malabsorption syndrome. It is a condition where the undigested proteins in the undigested foods cause the bird’s body to attack its own tissues. Avocado can also lead to secondary bacterial infections, and it has been linked to death in pet birds.

Onions

Onions are another food that you should avoid feeding ducks. Onions are extremely harmful to ducks because they can cause anemia, damage the stomach lining, and cause yellowing of the duck’s skin or eyes.

Conclusion

There are a wide range of food and food products that you can offer your domestic ducks and ducklings. However, you should always make sure that the food you offer them adheres to their daily nutritional needs and this includes vitamin A, calcium and protein. Also, take care when feeding ducks in the wild. Any of the food mentioned above should be fine, and beware not to offer them anything from the prohibited section, as this can cause them harm.

Sources and References

  1. Six Things You Didn’t Know You Could Feed Ducks – canalrivertrust.org.uk
  2. 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feed Bread to Ducks – treehugger.com

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