Ask any picnicker at the park what ducks eat and the answer you will probably get is bread. People normally feed crackers or pieces of bread to the ducks at the park, lake, or pond. However, this is not what ducks eat in the wild, and bread is not healthy for them at all.
Ducks do not get crackers and bread to eat in the wild. These things are completely unhealthy for them as they make their internal organs become enlarged and fatty. Ducks have a small 'crop' in their esophagus to store food before passing it on to the digestive system, called the pouch. The bread gets stuck in the crop and prevents the passage of food to the stomach. This leads to many health problems in the duck.
Ducks are aquatic birds that are found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. They feed on many aquatic plants and grasses. They eat the grass at the edge of the pond. If you own a pet duck, it may even nibble at the grass in your yard. They also eat small fish, insects, worms, small frogs and toads, and molluscs. They also drink water.
Diet According to Duck Species
There are different types of ducks and their feeding habits differ a bit. The shovelers are ducks with broad beaks who can sift through mud to catch insects, snails, and even seeds. Sea ducks and diving ducks can go deep under the water, and they have long, narrow beaks. These narrow beaks have saw-like edges that help them catch fish easily. Also, they are much heavier than the dabbling ducks as they need to submerge completely in water in order to catch fish.
Dabbling ducks can find food on land as well as in water. They have broad and short beaks with tiny rows of plates on the inner side. These plates are called the 'lamellae'. They are similar to the whale's baleen. These lamellae work as a filter that filters the water out and retains the caught food. Dabbling ducks eat plants, grasses, small insects, and animals that they are able to catch on land or in water.
As pets, ducks need to be fed the food that they eat in the wild; that is, more proteins and not carbohydrate-enriched foods like bread and crackers. Many health problems occur in ducks that are fed the wrong food. Domesticated ducks should not be fed human food as it does more harm than good. A domesticated duck cannot survive in the wild when released and cannot eat food like its wild counterparts. Similarly, a wild duck cannot be domesticated and fed what humans eat. Many people make the mistake of bringing home little ducklings without knowing about the care that they require. They release these birds into wild as they are unable to maintain them, leading to the birds' deaths.
Domesticated ducks need to be fed with a special duck food that is bought from a feed store. You can either get it in a pellet form or crumbled pieces that are specially-made for ducks. You also need to include grit or tiny stones in their diet once a week. Ducks can get these tiny stones naturally if they are allowed to roam in the dirt. If not, you need to get them supplemental dirt. You can even give them duck treats like vegetables such as corn, carrot, peas, etc. occasionally. However, do not turn these vegetables into their regular diet.
The next time you visit a park, pond, or lake inhabited by ducks, do not feed them bread, crackers, and any other food. You can buy some duck feed and give it to them. Feeding them the wrong kind of food will only cause them to experience various health problems.