What To Feed Ducks At A Pond: Everything You Need To Know

Couple feeding ducks

If you always head to the pond with a loaf of bread, you aren’t alone. Tossing bread to wild ducks is a highlight of visiting a park, after all. 

But before you reach into your breadbox for duck snacks, consider a few alternatives that are not only safer, but also packed with more nutritional value.

What Do Ducks Eat in a Pond?

Before discussing what to feed ducks at a pond, it can help to look into their usual diet. Like most wildlife, ducks consume foods naturally found in nature.

Ducks are omnivores, which means their diet includes both plant and animal sources. Their large bills allow them to easily scoop up smaller objects from the water.

Unfortunately, ducks don’t have teeth. That means they can only eat items that can squeeze down their necks.

Ducks eating beside the pond

 

Although it can vary by species, here are some typical pond-based food sources for ducks:

  • Duckweed: Younger ducks particularly like this invasive plant.
  • Algae: Ducks get essential nutrients from algae sources that form in freshwater.
  • Flowers: Take care when planting flowers around any water source, as ducks love to feast on them.
  • Seeds: Some duck species like to munch on plants, but others are more interested in the seeds produced by pond plants.
  • Fish: Small species like goldfish will quickly become duck food. 
  • Insects: Ponds are full of insects that make for great duck food, including snails and beetles.
  • Tadpoles and frogspawn: Ducks aren’t the only wildlife found in ponds. If frogs hatch eggs near a pond, those eggs could become duck food.

What Do Ducks Eat in the Wild?

Unlike fish, ducks spend plenty of time out of the water, where they feed on vegetation and insects. Here are some duck food sources found away from water sources.

Mallard duck beside lake

 

  • Grass: If you see a duck on dry land, you’ll probably notice grass and weeds make for great snacking.
  • Insects: Even away from ponds, ducks can help with pest control, dining on grasshoppers, beetles, and snails. 
  • Berries: Blackberries and blueberries aren’t just delicious to humans. Ducks will pluck them straight from the bush.
  • Flowers: Ducks love flowers, particularly rose petals, lavender, hibiscus, and dandelions.

Should You Feed Ducks at a Pond?

Like other creatures, ducks won’t turn down your snacks. Even on a full diet of leaves and insects, waterfowl will gobble up all nearby traces of food.

But should you feed ducks at all? Some experts say no. The problem with feeding ducks is that it could lead to nutrition deficits.

Like humans, if ducks fill up on snacks, they don’t go in search of nutrient-dense foods that will help them thrive.

A duck swimming in the pond

 

There are a few other issues with feeding ducks at ponds, including:

  • Inadvertent poisoning: If a duck ingests toxic or contaminated foods, it can lead to disease, injury, or death. 
  • Disease spread: Feeding encourages ducks to swarm, which can encourage the spread of contagious diseases.
  • Property damage: Snacking can attract teams of ducks that eventually erode banks, contaminate water, and harm vegetation.
  • Delayed migration: Ducks may stick around for your snacks, delaying their much-needed migration during the chillier months.
  • Pollution: Any snacks left behind can lead to pollution, which can harm wildlife and the environment. 

Can You Feed Ducks Bread?

Bread seems like a natural treat for toothless creatures. It’s soft, it can be broken into smaller pieces, and a little goes a long way.

There are a few problems with feeding a bird bread, though, starting with its lack of nutritional value. Sure, it has a few vitamins and some protein, but it’s mostly carbs.

Man feeding bread to duck

 

There’s also the issue of the condition of your bread. Once mold sets in, it can cause a variety of health problems.

One of those problems is aspergillosis, which can be deadly to ducks. Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by contaminated feed.

Bread has also been linked to a condition called angel wing syndrome. This syndrome can affect a duck’s ability to fly.

An occasional non-moldy piece of bread might not be a problem, but those pieces add up. That’s why some alternative snacks are worth considering.

Great Pantry Snacks to Feed Ducks

When you want to enjoy the great outdoors, what can you feed ducks at the pond that won’t be dangerous?

Pantry snacks for ducks

 

Let’s start with items in your pantry. Instead of bread, reach for these snacks:

  • Veggies: Peas, cucumbers, broccoli, and corn
  • Fruits: Non-citrus fruits like berries, melons, pears, and peaches
  • Whole grains: Cooked whole wheat or vegetable pasta, brown rice, and uncooked oats
  • Cooked meats: Safe and cooked chicken, fish, or pork in small, easily swallowed bites
  • Cooked eggs: Safe and cooked eggs from any species

It doesn’t matter if vegetables are canned or fresh. The key is that they’re uncontaminated and don’t require chewing.

Some foods can become a choking hazard for ducks. You can chop those foods up into smaller pieces to reduce that risk.

Foods like carrots, beets, and turnips are packed with nutrients but tough to swallow. 

To play it safe, you can also cook larger vegetables to create a soft snack that’s easy to get down. Yes, it’s a little extra work, but it’s safer.

You can also save your scraps when you peel cucumbers or carrots for the ducks. That way, you aren’t sacrificing your own food budget.

Great Pet Store Snacks to Feed Ducks

Birdseeds

 

Then there are the foods found at pet stores. Here are a few that are ideal for ducks:

  • Waterfowl feed: Specially formulated for ducks, this is the safest option, but it can be pricey.
  • Birdseed: This can be an affordable option if you regularly feed ducks.
  • Insects: You can find insects like mealworms and crickets at your local pet store if you don’t want to catch them in the wild.
  • Feeder fish: If you don’t mind dropping some fish into your pond, only to have ducks consume them soon after, this is a great option.
  • Pet food: Head over to the cat and dog food aisle. Both can be great for ducks, as long as the nuggets are small and easily swallowed.

Great Duck Snacks Found in Nature

You don’t have to raid the pantry or take a trip to the pet store to feed ducks at ponds. In fact, the answer to what to feed wild ducks in pond settings is in your back yard.

The best thing about nature-based snacks is they’re environmentally friendly. If something isn’t eaten, it remains where it belongs: in nature.

Earthworms

 

Yes, ducks can forage for vegetation and insects on their own, but if you want the thrill of feeding them, grab your gardening gloves. 

First, look around your yard. There’s plenty of free duck food all around. Leaves, cut grass, and weeds work just as well as bread or birdseed.

While you’re at it, grab a container and start hunting for insects. If you have children, they may enjoy helping you collect crickets or earthworms to feed the ducks.

If you have a backyard pond that attracts geese, keep that in mind when you’re scheduling lawn treatments. Avoid spraying your grass and gardens with pesticides.

Foods to Avoid Feeding Ducks

Now that you know what to feed ducks at a pond, it’s important to look at what not to feed them.

Lemon oranges

 

Here are some foods to avoid:

  • Citrus fruits: Fruits like lemons and oranges are thought to interfere with calcium absorption and cause stomach upset in ducks.
  • Fruit pits: While fruits like apricots and cherries are safe, the seeds and pits contain a chemical that can be fatal to ducks.
  • Avocados: A chemical called persin is found in avocados, as well as their leaves, bark, and seeds. Persin is toxic to ducks.
  • Raw dried beans: Beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which can be fatal to ducks unless it’s cooked.
  • Salty foods: Although salt isn’t bad in small quantities, too much sodium can lead to salt poisoning in ducks.
  • Popcorn: Speaking of salty foods, popcorn is another to-avoid food. The kernels are tough for them to digest.
  • Chocolate: You’ve probably heard chocolate is dangerous to dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, which makes it dangerous to ducks too.
  • Onions: Another food that’s dangerous for both dogs and ducks is the onion. It contains a chemical called thiosulfate, which ducks lack the enzymes to digest.
  • Nightshade vegetables: Tomatoes, white potatoes, rhubarb, and eggplant contain chemicals that are toxic to ducks.

How to Feed Ducks at a Pond

As fun as feeding ducks can be, how you feed them is as important as what you feed them. 

A girl feeding ducks at a pond

 

First, it’s important to avoid overfeeding them. Throw a little food at a time, and stop when the ducks seem to lose interest.

Don’t make feeding the ducks an important habit. This can be tougher if the pond is in your backyard than if you’re traveling to the park.

Keep migration patterns in mind. Stop feeding ducks before the weather turns chilly to encourage them to fly south rather than stick around for more snacks.

How to Keep Your Pond Healthy

Ducks aren’t the only factor to keep in mind as you’re choosing food. If your pond hosts fish, for instance, meats can be tough for them to digest.

Mallard Duck on Pond

 

The health of your pond is also a consideration. If the ducks leave scraps behind in the water, the food can harm water quality as it breaks down.

For meats and vegetables you’re cooking, keep in mind that oils can be harmful. Pet foods can also hurt the water, as well as any fish swimming around in it.

What to Feed Ducks at a Pond FAQs

You may still have a few questions about feeding ducks at ponds, whether they’re at your local park or in your own back yard. Here are some commonly asked questions about ducks.

Do ducks need water?

Ducks may gravitate toward waterways, but they’re perfectly fine without it. Unlike other species, ducks can survive just fine on land.

So why do they spend so much time on the water?

You might be interested to know that ducks use water for the same reasons we do. They bathe, submerging their heads and bodies for cleaning purposes.

They also use ponds to cool down on a hot day in the same way we do. That’s why shady ponds are often covered in ducks when the temperature skyrockets.

What do ducks eat in a pond?

Ducks find plenty to eat in ponds, including small insects, pondweed, and pond plants. You’ll likely spot a duck regularly bobbing beneath the water to grab snacks.

Do ducks eat fish?

A duck will eat a smaller fish, as long as it fits in his bill. Some duck species eat fish more than others. 

The merganser ducks, for instance, are carnivores that mostly dine on small crustaceans like mussels and shrimp.

Do ducks eat frogs?

Before you stock your pond with lily pads, be aware that frogs are tasty snacks for ducks. 

Ducks tend to go for smaller prey, though, so tadpoles and frogspawn are more at risk.

Do ducks eat grass?

Ducks can graze on grass with the best of them, but you’re more likely to find them on water. That means algae and aquatic plants provide most of their greens.

Do ducks eat ticks?

Like other birds, ducks eat and digest ticks as though they were any other insect. This can help reduce tick populations around ponds.

Can ducks eat leftovers?

Instead of tossing leftovers in the trash, why not feed them to the ducks? Just make sure they fit all the criteria. Avoid foods on the dangerous list and don’t overfeed them.

As you’re tossing those scraps to the ducks, only toss out a little at a time. This will help ensure all the food is eaten rather than polluting the ground.

Summary

Now that experts have a better understanding of duck nutrition, it’s clear bread isn’t the best treat to feed them.

As you’re deciding what to feed ducks at a pond, start with safety and convenience. You might find that leftovers make for a more affordable snack than duck food.

Make sure to avoid overfeeding ducks, particularly if you’re heading to a popular feeding spot. 

Most importantly, have fun.

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