Many birders got their first personal interactions with birds by feeding ducks at local parks or urban ponds. Knowing what to feed ducks can help provide the birds with a healthy diet so future generations can enjoy this activity safely both for themselves and for the birds they want to feed.
To Feed or Not to Feed Wild Ducks
Feeding ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl is a topic of great debate among birders, conservationists and city officials.
There are many bird feeding myths related to ducks, including the idea that feeding the birds will inhibit their migration. In fact, many waterfowl species are naturally year-round residents of city parks and similar habitats, and they will remain there whether or not they are hand fed. Too much feeding, however, is unhealthy and can create excess waste and pollution that can destroy habitats, while leftover, uneaten food can attract rodents and spread diseases. Birds that are fed too often can also become aggressive and may become a nuisance if they overpopulate a small area.
It is important to realize that waterfowl are capable of fending for themselves and do not require human handouts to survive, no matter what the season nor how much they seem to beg for treats. Individuals who do want to feed the ducks, however, can do so by offering nutritious treats to supplement the birds’ wild diet.
What Not to Feed Ducks
The most common items fed to ducks and waterfowl are also the least nutritious and most unhealthy. Bread, chips, crackers, donuts, cereal, popcorn and similar bread-type products and scraps are never best to feed birds. Feeding ducks bread is bad because the food has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings’ growth, pollute waterways and attract rodents and other pests.
Similarly, ducks should not be fed any products that are spoiled or moldy – different types of mold can be fatal to waterfowl. Fortunately, there are many other foods that can be offered to ducks, geese and swans as part of a healthy and nutritious diet.