If you ask yourself, “What do ducks eat?”, your first though might be crackers or bread. This is only because practically everyone at some point has been at the park, beach or lake and have fed the ducks whatever they happen to have handy like hamburger or hot dog buns or crackers, pretzels and popcorn. Everyone loves to feed the ducks and as much as the ducks are happy to eat whatever you throw their way, it is very bad for them.
If a duck eats crackers, bread or other carbohydrates regularly, its organs will become fatty and even enlarged. Liver and heart disease then becomes issues for the duck. Also, ducks, as well as other birds have what is called a crop. This is a small pouch on their esophagus that allows them to store away food for later. Bread can often get stuck here making them quite ill.
People assume, or prefer to think they are doing a favor to the ducks by feeding them but they are really doing the complete opposite. Ducks need protein, not all of the additives that are in breads and crackers. Their digestive systems are not really sure how to process such foods. Also, if the duck resides in an area where they are constantly fed, they become dependent on it. This often causes ducks to fight over food, resulting in old and young ones to go hungry or get injured.
Additionally, if you attempt to feed the ducks and they do not eat it for whatever reason, it can sit there and rot and then whatever bird eats it later can get sick. Imagine your bun from your sandwich with mayonnaise on it baking in the sun all day and then eaten later; this is not healthy. If you really want to feed them then leafy greens or vegetables should be your choice.
So really, “What do ducks eat?” In their natural environment they enjoy crustaceans, vegetables, fish and grains. These grains are not processed and are eaten from the fields.
Animals raised by humans however are a bit of a different story. A number of people buy baby ducks at Easter because they are adorable gifts. Then the ducks get bigger and these people release them in the wild and expect them to be able to survive. If you do have a pet duck or are planning on getting one, make sure you are prepared for the long term commitment. You can purchase pellets and crumble of waterfowl at the feed store that is specifically designed for ducks and will keep them healthy.
If you are purchasing your duck as a baby, as most people do, you need to know they need a lot of protein, especially for the first month or so. You also cannot feed them adult food so be sure to buy them pellets for their appropriate age.
Also, ducks need grit, which are tiny stones, added to their diet weekly. If they are allowed to roam in dirt and outdoors, they can usually take care of obtaining these stones themselves. If not, the feed store will carry a supplemental grit. If you want to give them a treat once in awhile, just as you would your pet cat or dog, give them greens, corn, carrot or peas. This applies in the wild too. If you know you are going to the park and you are going to want to feed the ducks, pack a few carrots cut up in your picnic basket.
Ducks need a diet full of protein and healthy nutrients. Next time you are out at a park or the lake and see people feeding the ducks unhealthy carbohydrates, share this information with them so they will too know the answer to, “What do ducks eat?”