What to Feed Ducks and Other Wild Birds

Most of us know that we should not be feeding bread or other kitchen castoffs to local waterfowl but many of us also enjoy feeding the ducks and geese when we run into them. Our feathered friends can be difficult to resist.

When you live in a community which has an abundance of local waterfowl like I do it is common to see ducks and geese when you are at the local lake or beach. Most of the birds in my neighbourhood are pretty used to people and the ducks will come running to see if you have food for them to eat which of course brings up the question of what to feed the ducks. 

Bread, popcorn, crackers and other human foods of this nature have very little nutritional value to offer ducks, geese, or other wild birdsWhen we feed these items to birds we deprive them of eating healthier food alternatives. To learn which natural foods a wild duck would usually eat check out the list below.

1) Insects or bugs.

2) Algae

3) Aquatic plants and roots 

4) Worms, tiny fish, fish eggs, snails, frogs, salamanders, and other available small protein sources.

5) Fruit, berries, seeds, grain, and small nuts.

6) Sand and small stones.

Ducks and geese may come for food but it is up to you to say no or at the very least to feed them suitable foods. If ducks fill themselves up on bread then they are likely not going to be eating the variety of foods that their natural diet requires them to. This means that they are not likely to get the proper nutrition that they otherwise would if left to their own devices. They are like little kids in a candy store, if you give them a treat they are going to eat it. 

So what can you feed the local waterfowl? If you really cannot resist bringing the ducks or geese something to eat then here are some healthier alternatives that you can feed them.

1) The very best food option is duck food pellets which are available at your local feed store.

2) Grains, wheat, barley, oats, bird feed, and cracked corn.

3) Sliced or halved grapes, finely chopped lettuce or other salad greens, defrosted frozen corn or peas.

4) Mealworms or earthworms.

Be bird friendly. Insure that any food you do provide is tiny enough for them to easily eat without choking and also try NOT to feed the waterfowl on a regular basis as this will encourage them not to forage for food as they naturally would.

The Ducks Unlimited Story

It is also important to note that overfeeding the ducks and geese at your local pond can also create issues as the leftovers will be left uneaten and can spoil. This rot can cause disease. You are also not likely to be the only one bringing food to them and, f
eeding waterfowl on a regular basis, can be detrimental to their health.

A Young Female Managed to Corner Us Away From The Crowd and Was Hoping We Had a Treat to Toss Into The Water For Her

In spring months it is important for the young ducks and geese to learn to forage on their own. Learning young how to fend for themselves increases their odds of survival in the long term.

If food is handed out to waterfowl on a regular basis there is a greater likelihood of an overpopulation of birds gathering in a specific area. A natural diet helps waterfowl to maintain their wild lifestyle and to keep bird populations in check. The wild diet of your local area is actually the perfect diet for the birds who generally migrate to your area. Ducks should be foraging naturally in the ponds and among the local shrubbery for their food.

Interestingly the fall food shortages are a natural occurrence and are an indication to the birds that it is time to fly to where food is more plentiful. If food is plentiful then ducks, geese, and other wild birds are less likely to migrate when they should. Mother Nature knows what she is doing and it truly is best to allow wild birds to continue to live a wild lifestyle. 

Related Articles by Lorelei Cohen