What Do Wild Ducks Eat and Drink? 

We often see wild ducks in many places around the world, and it is often unclear what they eat. A deeper understanding of wild ducks’ feeding habits is not only interesting but also crucial to their survival and habitat conservation. As omnivores, they eat both plants and animals. Their diet will differ by species, habitat, and season. Here, we will explore the dietary preferences of wild ducks and how they feed.


Introduction: Wild Ducks Eating Habits

It is widely believed that ducks do not have access to their native foods in urban ponds and nature preserves. Birds and animals generally sustain themselves by obtaining their food from the wild. They do not need human assistance to live, regardless of the season or how persistently they ask for food.

Due to their relatively omnivorous nature, ducks can easily survive on pondweeds, aquatic plants, insects, tiny fish, and even frogs. While ducks can typically find grass seeds and acorns in the winter, they could enjoy some wholesome supplementation at this time of year.

Several experts believe that excessive feeding is harmful, which can result in a lot of waste and pollution, harming birds and other wildlife as well as destroying habitats. Moreover, unconsumed food can transmit disease, attract rodents, and produce unpleasant odors. When fed too frequently, birds might develop aggressive behavior or cause problems if there are too many of them in one place.

What Do Ducks Eat In The Wild?

Several duck species also change their diet over the year; for example, some species consume more animal nutrients over the breeding season and spring migration, while others consume more plant-based diets during winter or autumn migration.

As an example, in the summer, Mandarin ducks primarily consume insects, snails, small fish, worms, fish, and small snakes; in autumn and winter, they prefer acorns and grains. The following is a list of what ducks eat in the wild:

Aquatic Plants

Ducks are excellent swimmers and generally reside near water bodies, including fresh and saltwater. Hence throughout the year, a sizable portion of their diet consists of aquatic vegetation.


Wild ducks eat pondweeds, duckweeds, algae, and water grasses in the wild. They also eat floating plants like water lilies and water hyacinths (in moderation). Ducks need these plants for nutrition, vitamins, and minerals to grow and be healthy.


Ducks that dive and dabble consume invertebrates. Ducks that dive prefer aquatic species while dabbling ducks eat mainly terrestrial ones.


Aquatic environments, wetlands, and grasslands are all habitats for invertebrates. It’s easy for ducks to forage in these different habitats for invertebrates. They dive underwater and look for aquatic insects and crustaceans, or dig in the mud to find worms and snails.

A duck’s diet also depends on the season and where it lives. For example, ducks may feed on more insects during the breeding season to meet their protein needs to produce eggs and raise their young.


Most diving ducks, such as scoters and common golden eyes, feed on fish, as they can search for food underwater. The merganser, also known as the sawbill or the fish duck, is one of the few ducks that consumes a large quantity of fish. To capture their prey, these birds have evolved specialized bills with serrations.


They consume many fish, notably eels, salmon, and especially trout. You should know that not all ducks eat fish. Some feed mostly on plants and seeds and rarely consume fish.


Ducks eat amphibians for protein and essential nutrients. Duck species such as the tufted duck and pochard consume frogspawn and tadpoles. Although the majority of adult amphibian species are just too large to ingest properly, many of them also consume the offspring of the species they are eating. This includes froglets and toadlets.


Also, in a roadside freshwater pond, the scaups dig up to eat hibernating leopard frogs which are about five centimeters long (cm). Ducks typically hunt for amphibians in shallow water bodies such as ponds, marshes, and wetlands.


We’ve seen ducks eat nearly anything, even small reptiles like lizards and salamanders. Additionally, they ate small snakes like garter snakes and copperheads.


For example, Muscovy ducks have been known for eating snakes and occasionally hurting snakes during the defense of their eggs in the wild.


There are lots of fruits wild ducks eat depending on their habitat. Berries, grapes, watermelon, and apples are some of the fruits wild ducks eat.


Wild ducks can get vitamins, minerals, and hydration from fruits. Fruits are only a small part of a wild duck’s diet because they also eat other things that we’ve already discussed.

What Do Wild Ducks Drink?

Clean water is essential for life. Just like all other bird species, ducks also consume water. Water is essential for ducks because it keeps their eyes and nostrils clean and helps them retain healthy plumage.

The average duck drinks one liter of water daily, which means it occasionally consumes twice as much water as it weighs. Ponds, lakes, and standing water are the usual places for wild ducks to drink. Aside from drinking water, wild ducks get moisture from eating aquatic plants, insects, and small fish.

What Do Wild Ducks Not Eat?

Wild ducks eat food that’s natural to their habitat and don’t eat things that can hurt them. These include processed foods like bread or chips. Additionally, they cannot eat dairy products because they struggle to digest lactose. Toxic plants like wisteria, yew, poison ivy, etc are also harmful to them. The diet of wild ducks is flexible, but they stick to their natural diet. You shouldn’t feed wild ducks (or at least try to avoid them whenever possible), as it can make them sick and change their behavior.

Also Read: Why Are Birds Important to the Environment?


Ducks are omnivores, eating plants, insects, and even tiny water creatures. Wild ducks have different diets based on their species and their environment. The wild duck eats seeds, watery vegetation, and grains from plants. Berry and fruit can also be eaten when available. Additionally, ducks eat a lot of insects and other invertebrates. These could include snails, worms, and other small aquatic creatures. Finally, wild ducks may also eat small fish, crabs, and other water creatures.

They are often spotted diving underwater or snooping on the surface of the water. Overall, wild ducks broad and flexible diet enables them to survive in a wide range of conditions. Although feeding wild ducks is a popular activity, it’s not a good idea to do it in urban areas because it disrupts their natural feeding patterns and can spread diseases as well.

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