What Do Ducks Eat? Curious Duck Facts That Kids Will Love & Enjoy!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 29, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 30, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa
diet of a wild duck is unpredictable
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.5 Min

Ducks love to eat worms, grass, insects, seeds, greens, rice, corn, and grains to maintain a balanced diet for keeping themselves strong and healthy.

Ducks are omnivorous, and they will eat almost everything. They hold a special place in the hearts of many people for their flavorful and rich eggs and their pleasant and hardy personality, which allows them to mingle with other farm animals.

Mergansers are fish-eating ducks that will dive under the water in the search for food like aquatic plants and small crustaceans. These ducks hover over the water while feeding and can even stay submerged in the water for several minutes in the duck pond. While searching for their food, ducks use their beaks like a shovel, which helps them to screen through muck and mud.

Once they fill their mouth with muck and mud, the water and rest of the mud pass out through their nasal holes like a strainer holding their prey with the help of lamellae. These birds have bills, and they lack teeth, as they possess rows of bristles around their bill. A duck's diet depends on the habitat, seasons, and availability of food sources. To obtain enough food, these ducks will forage throughout day and night and will forage for slugs, grass, and bugs to supplement their diet.

If you like this article about what do ducks eat, be sure to check out articles about how often do ducks lay eggs and how to take care of baby ducks here on Kidadl.

What do ducks eat in the wild?

Wild ducks feed on different varieties of grains, aquatic vegetation, grasses, and invertebrates that are easily found in the wild. The combination of this diet provides nutritional value for surviving and for healthy growth in the wild.

Ducks love oats, grains, barley, fish eggs, worms, leaves, nut pieces, aquatic plants, corn, rice, wheat, small fish, barley, snails, grass, milo seed, sunflower seeds, fresh green vegetables, and aquatic vegetation. As the diet of a wild duck is unpredictable, ducks carry a large fat that is stocked under their feathers, helping them to see through the bad weather. They reduce their exposure by finding a spot to sit in and maintaining a specialized flow of blood to prevent freezing.

What do baby ducks eat after hatching?

After duckings hatch, they don't feed for at least 24 hours, during this period, they absorb the nutrients of the yolks inside the eggs.

As it is known that adult ducks can eat almost anything, while feeding a baby duck, you should choose the specific food which includes frozen peas, bananas, berries, cucumber, greek yogurt, crickets, fly larvae, oatmeal, mealworm, tomatoes, apples, peaches, grass, leafy green vegetables, cottage cheese, and eggs.

What kind of food can ducks eat?

Ducks are omnivorous, and their eating habits include consuming seeds, rice, fish, grains, fruits, plants, and insects. They are going to consume almost anything that they can find as an open buffet, but they do have preferences, and if you are feeding them what they prefer, it will help their growth.

You can provide these feathered friends with a mixture of duck food that contains barley, milo, wheat, corn, sunflower seeds, and millet which will provide a balanced diet. For wild ducks, any kind of seed is fine even frozen corn can be given to them after defrosting. You can also feed these ducks raw or cooked rice, peas, and sweetcorn. You will find ducks searching for worms in the mud, so you can, without worrying, feed them mealworms. It is better to mix these mealworms with seeds before feeding ducks. The natural diet of a duck also includes shellfish, algae, snails, frogs, small fish, and fish eggs which is originally available in the ponds. Ducks love to eat grass, and they mostly enjoy cloves, dandelions, and pansies, so it is ok to keep your ducks or geese open on the lawn. To avoid ducks from becoming dependent on humans for food, you need to make sure that your feeding patterns match with their natural eating habits.

Ducks have super-powered eyesight, and they are able to view at 340 degrees, which helps them to spot close objects, making them good at searching for worms and insects. During the winter season, ducks can be found near the areas with running waters or near the edges of ponds probing under the ice in search of worms and other insects. Once ducks find open water, they will start foraging for fresh fish or other crustaceans for a snack and will eat any green vegetation that they find or hedgerow berries.

What do wild ducks eat naturally?

Usually, you will find many people in the garden spending hours with their young ones feeding a loaf of stale bread to the ducks and other waterfowl. Though wild ducks eat bread and junk food such as potato chips, it is not good for them, and the main reason is that bread is of little nutritional value compared to what their natural foods consist of. Even though bread is not harmful to them, once they eat bread and fill themselves, it is likely that they will not eat their natural source of nutritious food to maintain a balanced diet that will keep them healthy. Ducks that are fed bread become overweight and even malnourished over time which leads to their wings being deformed, making it difficult for them to fly. Moldy bread can also affect these wild birds as they can contract lung disease.

You should always supervise young children while feeding ducks and other waterfowl and encourage them to safely feed and not allow them to get close to the water or the ducks. You should encourage them to feed wild ducks by scattering the food on the surface of the water rather than scattering them on land and feeding in smaller amounts to avoid building up leftover food. Ducks have been seen pecking in the dirt, it is not because they like the taste of the soil, mostly they are interested in what is inside the soil. These birds will scoop mud with the help of their beak from the puddles and filter the mud with their nasal holes retaining grubs and worms from the soil. Wild ducks plunge their beaks into the soil in search of tiny rodents and insects, they have also been seen eating blades of grass which provide a good source of fiber to improve and help in their digestion.

While going through the mud, sometimes these wild ducks eat small rocks, sand, pebbles, and gravel. These small stones help the ducks to grind their food inside the gizzard to grow strong and healthy eggshells. Commercial mixtures of fine sand and minerals are easily available in the market, and they can be provided to the duck as these grits prevent domestic ducks from potentially harmful stones.

What happens if ducks eat paper?

Chewing paper is common among wild and pet birds and ducks are no different!

They like to chew on paper and cardboard and cannot get hurt as long as there is no trace of toxic elements in the paper. Most newspapers these days use non-toxic inks to prevent human babies or animals from ingesting any toxic material.

Facts about ducks are interesting!

What do ducks eat in ponds?

As soon as the duckling hatch, they learn to swim first before learning to fly. Females will guide the ducklings to the water for their first swimming lesson. The reason behind this is that there is more source of food in water than in air, and as the ducklings become independent, they need to be prepared for foraging their own food.

You should also make sure to keep the food for the ducks in small pieces to avoid choking since they tend to swallow the whole food as they lack teeth. Cherry and apple seeds can cause harm to ducks, so make sure to avoid these things in their diet. Avoid scattering the food on dry land as ducks prefer to eat in their comfort zone, provide them rolled oats and cracked corn as these are easy to digest. Vegetables should be chopped into small chunks. Since ducks sleep with one open eye, it is recommended not to startle them as they might become agitated and attack you.

People keeping ducks and geese as pets should feed them commercially prepared food as their main diet, and they should also be provided with fresh leafy vegetables and fruits to supplement the diet. To supplement their commercial diet, they should also be provided with peas, corns, non-citrus fruits, zucchini, vegetable peels to eat and maintain their health.

What do yellow ducks eat?

Yellow ducks are basically newborn baby ducks. During the first three weeks, you should avoid chicken feeds as it does not contain all the nutrition that a duck needs to grow. Once the ducklings are three weeks old, you can start giving them some good quality grower food which should contain at least 15% of protein. Ducks need plenty of water to flush down their food, so make sure that when you are feeding them, a good source of water should be available for them.

Even after providing the best foods, sometimes ducklings start having foot or leg problems, and to avoid this problem, you should add some brewer's yeast into their food which will provide niacin to the duckling for stronger legs. It is very important for the ducklings to go out on the grass for exercise during a warm sunny day and to also eat grasses and weeds. Chick feed does not contain enough niacin for ducks, so make sure while feeding ducks, to add niacin externally.

Did You Know...

The most important question to many people who have ducks is how much to feed them. The amount of food that you need to feed your duck depends on their age, a duckling that is less than four weeks old must be given a free choice to eat what it wants and how much it wants. As they start growing, you need to provide a balanced diet. Ducklings between 4-20 weeks of age should roughly consume 4 oz (113.3 g) per day, and ducklings who are 20 weeks and older will eat at least around 4.8 oz (136 g).

If ducks are able to roam free-range, they will forage for foods and gather nutrition from the surrounding areas. Many people feed ducks twice a day and even provide some treats for them in case the ducks want a snack. The major factor is that the diet of the duck varies according to their size, a small duck will eat little, for example, a little call duck will eat less when compared to what an Appleyard or a Cayuga duck eats. Similar to other pets, ducks also enjoy their treats. Treats should not be more than 10% of their daily ratio. Avoid giving them spinach, raw potato, or any citrus fruit.

Usually, duck feed is not easily available in the market, and if you have ducks and need them to have balanced foods, you can easily modify the chicken feed to something suitable for ducks and geese without taking up much time. Ducks are very beneficial for gardens and ponds as they love chowing down snails, bugs, and slugs, keeping control over the pests while looking for snacks at the same time.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what ducks eat, then why not take a look at where do ducks sleep? Or can ducks eat bananas?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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