Much like humans, most wild ducks are omnivores, which means they require a mixed diet of both plant and animal material. This varied diet provides them with a balanced range of nutrients, allowing them to thrive and remain healthy. However, a few species of wild ducks are exclusively herbivores (eat only plant matter such as grasses and leaves) and carnivores (eat only animal matter such as worms and fish).
Since most wild ducks live in an aquatic habitat (lakes, rivers, estuaries and ponds), they have evolved to include copious plant-based material in their diets. Such material is ubiquitous, accessible and rich in all their required nutrients. Wild ducks are not fussy eaters and their diets consist of sea grasses, pond weeds, sago, berries and various seeds. Sometimes, they eat natural grains such as wild rice, which grow in waterlogged rice paddies.
Even the most herbivorous of wild ducks switch to a more carnivorous diet during breeding season. After all, they need elevated protein levels to raise their young. Once again, ducks will eat any animal material they can outpace and readily snatch. Such delicacies include insects (flies and mosquitoes), slugs, tadpoles, fish eggs, small invertebrate (without a spine) animals, mollusks (snails), crustaceans (shell fish), worms, small frogs, minnows and tadpoles.
Should Humans Feed Them?
Human intervention has disrupted the feeding activities of many wild animals. Humans shouldn't feed wild ducks because it diminishes their ability and desire to hunt, deprives them of exercise and allows available food to rot, releasing pollutants into the surrounding soil and water. As wild ducks lose their ability to forage for food, they may become aggressive if the food supply from humans suddenly diminishes or disappears.
What Not to Feed Ducks
Wild ducks do not thrive on bread, crackers, pretzels or gummy bears. Such over-processed foods are high in carbohydrates, salt and sugar, low in protein and most essential nutrients. Their digestive systems have not evolved sufficiently to handle snack foods and they are difficult for ducks to digest, causing them to suffer enlarged, fatty organs and become sick, even die.
Caring for Wild Ducks
If you are nursing wild ducks, try feeding them a balanced diet of corn, peanuts, acorns, bird food, cut grapes, peas and leafy green vegetables (celery and lettuce). Wild ducks also enjoy chopped tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and similar natural foods free of artificial additives, salt and spices. If they are breeding, they require a higher protein content (around 20 per cent) in their diets.