What Foods Can You Feed to Ducks?

Although many people feed bread to ducks, it's better to consider more nutritious foods. Learn if ducks can eat corn or bird seed.

High Angle View Of Male Mallard Duck With Bread In Beak On PierZelma Brezinska / EyeEm/Getty Images
Do not feed bread to mallard ducks; choose cracked corn or bird seed instead.

Of course, we always want to do what is best for the birds. Unfortunately, sometimes what we think is best might actually be hurting them. This tends to be the case with bread and ducks. Bread pretty much offers no nutritional value to ducks, but they will still take an easy handout when available.

Not only is too much bread bad for adults, it can be even worse for ducklings. They need a diet high in protein to grow and bread offers only carbohydrates.

Meet the mallard: the most common duck in the world.

Ask the Experts: Is Bread Safe for Ducks?

bird feeding myths, foods to feed ducks breadcsourav/getty images

Reader Brittany Hook asks, “Is it OK to give wild birds our leftover whole wheat bread to eat?”

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say a regular diet of bread products fed to waterfowl can cause serious harm.

“We discourage people from feeding bread to birds, as there are far too many potential risks. With so many other food options, we’d recommend avoiding it. Bread gets moldy quickly, and mold can pose a number of health problems for birds,” they explain.

“If the chunks of bread are too large, they can actually block the digestive tract. Bread doesn’t have much nutritional value as a food source for most of your favorite fliers, so when it’s fed to them on a regular basis, it can cause nutrient insufficiencies. Bread is also more likely to attract raccoons, rats and other unwelcome guests.”

Learn how to identify a wood duck.

Best Foods to Feed Ducks

what to feed ducksCourtesy Linda Dutchess
Wild ducks can find plenty of food on their own in nature.

There are plenty of natural food sources in the wild, and ducks do not need our help to survive. But if you still would like to feed ducks, consider options that are better than bread.

  • Cracked Corn – Attract ducks with cracked corn. Sprinkle a few kernels in a dry place under a bird feeder. Look for cracked corn, not whole kernel corn; it’s much easier for smaller birds to eat. You can find this at most bird feeding stores. It’s an affordable and good alternative to bread.
  • Duck Pellets – This is one of the better food options you can offer. Duck feed pellets can be found at many farming stores and online.
  • Bird Seed – Ducks will eat the same types of bird seed that many of your other birds eat. In fact, in my yard, they tend to clean up anything the other birds drop under my feeders.

Remember, there is plenty of natural food around for ducks to eat. But if you want to know what to feed ducks, make sure to choose food that is nutritious and not harmful.

What is that black duck with the white beak?

About the Experts

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman are the official bird experts for Birds & Blooms. They are the creators of the Kaufman Field Guide series and they lead birding trips all over the world.

Why Trust Us

For nearly 30 years, Birds & Blooms, a Trusted Media Brandhas been inspiring readers to have a lifelong love of birding, gardening and nature. We are the #1 bird and garden magazine in North America and a trusted online resource for over 15 million outdoor enthusiasts annually. Our library of thousands of informative articles and how-tos has been written by trusted journalists and fact-checked by bird and garden experts for accuracy. In addition to our staff of experienced gardeners and bird-watchers, we hire individuals who have years of education and hands-on experience with birding, bird feeding, gardening, butterflies, bugs and more. Learn more about Birds & Blooms, our field editor program, and our submission guidelines.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is past president of the board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as president for 6 years) and secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as treasurer and vice president. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds,” where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers.