Brother and sister feeding ducks

What to feed ducks

Children of all ages enjoy feeding the ducks – learn how to keep our feathered friends healthy by avoiding bread and choosing food closer to their natural diet.

Feeding ducks and other waterfowl such as geese, swans, coots and moorhens, is a great activity for kids, bringing them closer to the natural world and fostering a lifelong love and respect of wild animals. There are nearly always ducks at the ponds of local parks, bringing nature right into the heart of the city. Feeding ducks is something you can do at any age – with young children and grandparents alike.

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What do ducks eat?

The natural diet of ducks and other waterfowl is aquatic vegetation such as pond weed, along with seeds, insects, worms, small water snails and amphibians, and even crustaceans such as crayfish. You might see ducks, swans and other birds ducking down into the water and feeding from the bottom – this is their natural way of feeding, and the variety of food they eat gives them a balanced nutrition that keeps them healthy.

What to feed ducks

Child feeding ducks with seeds

According to the Canal and River Trust, the best food items to feed ducks are:
  • Sweetcorn – tinned, frozen or fresh is fine, just make sure you defrost frozen corn.
  • Lettuce –  all types of salad leaves are fine, as long as it hasn’t gone slimy.
  • Peas – no need to cook them, but allow frozen peas to defrost before feeding them to ducks.
  • Oats – rolled oats and even instant porridge oats are fine to feed ducks. You could even feed them small pieces of flapjack, as long as there isn’t too much added sugar.
  • Seeds – bird seed or supermarket-bought seeds for human consumption are fine. Seeds are very nutritious and will be snapped up.
  • Rice – both cooked and uncooked rice is fine.

Should I feed bread to ducks?

Two mallard ducks on a pond

Traditionally, many of us fed bread to ducks, particularly stale bread we no longer wanted to eat. Taking the kids to the park with an old loaf of bread was a great way to spend a couple of hours outside.

However, in recent years, it’s become apparent that bread isn’t good for ducks. This is because bread isn’t particularly nutritious. While the bread itself isn’t dangerous to ducks, it fills them up and means the ducks are less likely to eat natural sources of nutritious food, which keeps them healthy. Over time, ducks fed on bread can become malnourished and even overweight – bad malnutrition can lead to deformed wings, which prevents ducks from being able to fly. What’s more, if you feed mouldy food to ducks they can become unwell, sometimes even developing a lung disease.

An added problem of feeding bread to ducks is that any leftover food can attract rats, potentially spreading diseases.

According the RSPB, it’s okay to feed very small amounts of bread to ducks but, on the whole, bread should be avoided along with chips, crackers, cereal, sweets and mouldy food.

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How to feed ducks

Toddler and mother feeding ducks at a pond

Always supervise children when feeding ducks and encourage them to be safe at the water’s edge – don’t let them get too close to the ducks or the water. Encourage them to scatter food on the water’s surface rather than the land, as it’s thought that bringing ducks to feed on land exposes them to predators. Feed small amounts of food to ducks and ensure they eat it all before adding more, to avoid a build-up of leftover food.

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