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Is Bread Bad For Ducks? [All You Need To Know]

Can ducks eat bread

Feeding ducks is fun! It’s so peaceful to go to a city park, sit by the lake, and watch the ducks, especially when I can feed them. For me, it’s also a great way to relax and relieve stress.

Feeding the ducks is also easy because these birds eat just about anything! They especially like bread, but just because they love those carbs doesn’t mean it’s good for them. In fact, bread is the last thing you should feed ducks.

Why is bread bad for ducks? What’s the best food for ducks? See this article for answers and to learn all about the best food for ducks!


What Do Ducks Usually Eat?

Ducks love bread, but it’s not what they usually eat. However, dabbling ducks such as Mallards and some other species may like bread because it tastes a bit like rice and other vegetable matter they feed on.

Learn more: Duck species in the U.S.

Normally, Mallards, Muscovies, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, and other dabbling duck species eat a variety of fresh grass, aquatic plants, other types of plant matter, and small creatures like snails and aquatic insects. Some species even eat small fish!

They forage for these food items by picking them from the surface of the water, from wet ground, and by dipping their heads below the surface of shallow water to pick and strain food from the bottom.

Mottled Ducks looking for food

Other species of ducks don’t feed nearly as much on plant matter. Ducks like Lesser and Greater Scaups, Redheads, and Canvasbacks dive beneath the surface to pick mollusks and other small creatures from the bottom of lakes and big rivers.

They share their habitat with other “diving ducks” like Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes, two other duck species that also feed on mollusks. Given their more animal-based diet, we rarely if ever see these ducks feeding on bread.

Keep reading: What do ducks eat?

The same goes for Common Mergansers and other merganser species. Although we might see those sleek ducks on big lakes, they hunt and catch fish!


Why Is Bread Bad For Ducks?

Feeding ducks bread is not good for several reasons. Bread is bad for ducks because it lacks nutritional value, essential vitamins, and minerals. Our feathered friends might love it, but the birds, of course, have no idea how bad it is for them! Bread is more or less fast food for ducks. It might taste good, but they shouldn’t eat it all the time.

In fact, they shouldn’t eat bread at all. In addition to being stripped of nutrients, most bread that people give to ducks is leftover bread that often has mold.

Even if the bread looks alright, after sitting around on the damp ground or in the water, it’s bound to go bad.

Ducks might get sick from eating that moldy bread, or it can promote dangerous bacterial and algae growth that harms both ducks and other animals.

Another reason to not give bread to ducks is because they prefer to wait for people to give them bread instead of foraging for better food.


What To Feed Ducks Instead?

Since bread is so bad for ducks, should we still feed them? Sure! We just need to give them better, more nutritious options. Even then, we shouldn’t feed ducks all the time. The birds still need to get most of their nutrition from a variety of wild foods they are adapted to eating.

Female Mallards

Bird seed is actually a good, easy option. Sprinkle some bird seed and small nuts at the edge of a pond, and ducks will enjoy it. This type of food provides them with healthy fats and other nutrients.

You can also throw them some bits of lettuce, corn, and peas. Ducks like vegetables, and they will also eat fruit. However, don’t overdo it with the fruit, it can give them an upset stomach!

Other human foods, like rice, work too, but just make sure to feed them plain rice, and only a little bit, once in a while. Both cooked and uncooked rice are fine. However, to avoid making the ducks dependent on one food source, we shouldn’t give them mounds of rice day after day. Oats are a great option too.



  • Most ducks are omnivores that feed on a variety of plant matter and small aquatic creatures.
  • Young ducklings find their own food shortly after hatching. They feed on tiny insects and other bits of food.
  • Common Mergansers and other merganser species are often referred to as “sawbills”. This is in reference to the tooth-like serrations on their beaks that help the birds catch and hold onto slippery fish.
  • To catch amphipods clinging to their feathers, Lesser Scaups can do somersaults to pick the small aquatic creatures from their belly and other parts of their plumage!
  • Long-tailed Ducks can dive as deep as 200 feet! This small northern diving duck swims deep to forage for small crustaceans and fish.
  • Many ducks feed at night, especially whistling-ducks. These big ducks like to forage at night for rice and other grains in big, open wetlands.
  • Ducks don’t have teeth. Instead, most species have very sensitive bills with bristles on the inside that filter out small food items from water, mud, and decayed plant matter.



Does bread expand in ducks stomachs?

Bread might not expand in duck stomachs, but it’s still bad for them. They do not get enough nutrients and might become dependant on people feeding them over time.

Does bread choke ducks?

No, bread does not choke ducks. However, it lacks important nutrients that ducks need for survival.

What foods can ducks not eat?

Foods that ducks can not eat include onions, chocolate, candy, citrus fruits, and avocados.

What do domesticated ducks eat?

Domesticated ducks eat food pellets designed for waterfowl. However, they also eat corn and other grains, leafy vegetables, and worms.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Jim Wright

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

Totally agree about not feeding bread to birds but... Not sure I agree with the following advice;

"Bird seed is actually a good, easy option. Sprinkle some bird seed and small nuts at the edge of a pond, and ducks will enjoy it. This type of food provides them with healthy fats and other nutrients."

The last thing you want in a natural area is wild ducks swimming to shore in search of food... Soon they will lose their fear of humans... Might attract rodents as well, no?

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