Best Foods to Feed Ducks

Learn why you should never feed bread to ducks and the best alternative treats you can offer our feathered friends.

Mar 24, 2023By Donna Hobson
best food to feed ducks

Taking a trip to the local park and feeding the ducks is an enjoyable pastime for you and these wild birds. But the food you feed these animals can severely impact their health, so you need to make sure you’re making the right choices.

One of the most common “duck” foods is bread, but this is a terrible choice for our feathered friends, as we’ll explore in this article. The good news is there are plenty of low-cost, healthy options that you can use to give the local wildlife a delicious treat.

Should You Feed Ducks?

man feeding ducks

There’s an ongoing debate between animal enthusiasts about whether we should feed ducks, geese, and other wild birds. Those who argue against the practice suggest that hand-feeding these feathered species may discourage migration or prevent them from learning to forage for themselves.

Others argue that some birds are non-migrational and will stay in the same location anyway. In addition, many birds living in city parks and other similar habitats may be semi-domesticated whether we like it or not. For these reasons, educating people on the right food to feed ducks is better, so they can at least provide a healthy snack.

As long as there are no signs to discourage feeding local wildlife, you can decide for yourself whether it is something you would like to do. If you do want to feed the local ducks, here is a list of the best foods for them (plus some that you’ll want to avoid).

What Are the Best Foods for Ducks?

1. Duck Feed Pellets or Birdseed

ducklings eating birdseed

Specially formulated duck food is one of the best foods you can give to local birds. Not only does it provide them with the correct nutrition, but it also floats for up to an hour on top of the water, which helps reduce waste. As we become more environmentally conscious, several parks and local authorities provide special feed for you to purchase.

If you can’t find specialized duck food, birdseed is a good alternative that is safe for ducks.

2. Fruits and Vegetables

ducks eating green salad leaves

In the wild, a duck’s natural diet includes vegetation such as pond weed as well as seeds, worms, snails, and insects. These omnivorous animals enjoy a diet that is rich in greenery, so there are lots of vegetables that make a perfect nutritious snack.

All salad leaves are good options (as long as they haven’t gone slimy) and mimic some foods that ducks naturally forage for. These birds also enjoy sweetcorn and peas, which are fine fresh, tinned, or frozen. You don’t need to cook them but make sure you defrost them before serving. And be careful about where you feed corn to ducks; try to keep this foodstuff away from the water as it can be difficult for fish to digest.

Ducks also enjoy vegetable scraps and peelings, which is a great way to reduce waste. Favorites include lettuce trimmings, carrot and cucumber peeling, and radish tops. Ensure you cut the veggies into manageable chunks before you feed them to the ducks.

A wide range of berries makes a tasty snack for our feathered friends, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Ducks also enjoy grapes and melon, so long as you cut them into manageable-sized chunks first (each piece of fruit should be no bigger than half a grape). Other safe fruits include peaches, apricots, plums, apples, pears, and bananas.

3. Rice and Oats

handful of oats to feed ducks

Cooked or uncooked rice and oats offer a much healthier alternative to bread; they will also enjoy barley, wheat, and similar grains.

Other healthy food options include:

  • Milo seed
  • Nut pieces or hearts
  • Earthworms or mealworms

Can You Feed Bread to Ducks?

bird eating bread from human

People have been feeding bread to ducks for years in a practice that began with good intentions. Instead of throwing out stale bread, people would feed it to the local wildlife. The problem is that bread is a high-carbohydrate food with minimal nutritional value for ducks.

A duck living on a diet of bread and other carb-rich foods would experience the same health problems as a human who ate nothing but candy, sugar, and junk food. A carb-heavy diet can cause ducks to put weight on, making it hard for them to fly and evade predators. And that’s not the only issue.

Providing an abundant food source in one area can quickly lead to overcrowding and territorial aggression. In these environments, predators may thrive, but it will impact other bird populations as well as the local environment. If you feed bread to ducks, they are unlikely to eat all of it, so the remainder becomes rotten and contributes to pollution. Not only does it create noxious odors, but it also leads to an increased growth in algae, which overcrowds desirable plants and leads to clogged waterways.

Which Foods are Bad for Ducks?

human feeding bread to bird

Bread isn’t the only food you should avoid feeding ducks. Here are several foods that you should avoid supplying to local wildlife:

  • Bread, crackers, cakes, and pastries
  • Crisps or popcorn
  • Sugary cereals
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes
  • High-acid fruits such as mango and pineapple
  • Onions or spinach
  • Avocados

Tips for Feeding Ducks

human hand feeding duck

There’s nothing wrong with offering a nutritional treat to the local wildlife now and again, but you need to educate yourself on the best practices first. The main priority lies in choosing the right foods and avoiding overfeeding. Not only can too much human food cause birds to put on unhealthy amounts of weight, but it can also stop them from using natural foraging behaviors to source their own foods.

When you enter a duck habitat, be careful not to disturb them, especially if you have young children. When you leave, ensure you take any rubbish and uneaten food away to avoid damage to the environment.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.