Feeding the ducks

It is important to know what is healthy to feed ducks as the wrong food can have serious consequences.

We all fed ducks bread as a child and your parents probably did as well. But did you know that this tradition of feeding ducks bread actually causes harm?

Why bread is bad for ducks

Bread is bad for ducks because it lacks any nutritional value for them. It can be fattening and make it harder for them to fly and otherwise escape predators. It can also lead to other problems:

Overcrowding: where an easy food source is abundant, ducks and other waterfowl will lay more eggs and the pond or lake will become overcrowded. This makes it more difficult for birds to seek out healthier food sources and increases the likelihood of territorial aggression.

Pollution: when too much bread is offered to ducks, not all of it will be eaten. The soggy, uneaten bread is unsightly and rotting bread can create noxious odours as well as lead to greater algae growth that can clog natural waterways. This concentrates the pollution and can eventually eradicate fish and other life in the vicinity as well as being harmful to dogs.

Diseases: feeding ducks bread can increase the spread of diseases in two ways. First, a carbohydrate-rich diet leads to greater defecation, and bird faeces easily harbour bacteria responsible for numerous diseases, including avian botulism. Second, mouldy bread can cause aspergillosis, a fatal lung infection that can decimate entire flocks.

Pest attraction: Rotting supplies of food leftover from ducks will attract other unwelcome pests such as rats. These pests can also carry additional diseases that can be dangerous to humans.

Loss of natural behaviour: when ducks become accustomed to handouts, they lose their natural fear of humans and may become aggressive in order to get more food. Their loss of fear can also cause dangers, such as a willingness to cross busy roads in order to reach picnickers and other likely sources of food.

If you can entice the ducks out of the water and feed them on the ground that is much better for the pond.

What you can feed

Salad or vegetables: Grab a bag of ready-made salad or chopped vegetables to scatter on the platform for the ducks. Aquatic plants are a natural food source for ducks, this makes dark leafy greens a healthy snack for ducks.

Peas: Bring a bag of peas to toss into the water, but please defrost them first!

Grapes: Bring a bag of grapes, but make it easier for the ducks by cutting them in half.

Snails, slugs and worms: Gather snails, slugs and worms from your back garden (but only if you do not use herbicides or pesticides.)

Duck food pellets: Online retailers sell these specially designed pellets as a nutritional complete food made just for ducks. Some versions are even designed to float in the water.

When to stop feeding

Ducks are opportunistic eaters that will sample nearly any food, and understanding what ducks eat can help us keep our local ducks and their habitats healthy and nutritious.

Stop feeding the ducks when they stop eating. Don't leave any food on the ground or in the water to rot and breed bacteria and fungi that will cause illness and attract pests.