Stop Feeding Ducks Bread


Unfortunately, the popular meme speaks the truth: You really, really shouldn’t feed ducks bread. (Popular Science)

What do ducks eat? Learn a little more about mallards with our great resource!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Pet owners like this Long Island lassie take care of their ducks by feeding them nutrient-rich foods like seeds, oats, and lettuce—not carb-heavy bread.
Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • So, most people have been feeding ducks all wrong. Why do experts recommend not feeding ducks bread crumbs?
    • It’s junk food that offers little-to-no nutritional benefit to the ducks. “White bread in particular has no real nutritional value, so while birds may find it tasty, the danger is that they will fill up on it instead of other foods that could be more beneficial to them,” says a spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
    • Reliance on human-supplied junk food keeps ducklings from learning how to forage healthy food for themselves.
    • A high-carbohydrate, high-protein diet is associated with a wing deformity known as “angel wing” or “airplane wing”. Angel wing is a condition where the last joint on the wing is distorted and causes the end feathers to stick out laterally—sideways—instead of lying flat against the body. This prevents the bird from flying.
      • Specifically, a high-protein diet contributes to the wing bones growing too fast and making the wing too heavy for the joint. The excessive growth also twists the joint.
      • Angel wing can be reversed in ducklings but is incurable in adults.
    • Uneaten bread crumbs attract predators, grow mold that makes ducks and other riparian critters sick, and contribute to the growth of cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms.


  • Is there anything else we should avoid feeding ducks, swans, and geese?
    • Yes. Avocados, onions, citrus, nuts, chocolate, popcorn, carbonated beverages, and alcohol should never, ever be fed to ducks.


  • OK, so what sort of foods do ducks eat in the wild?





Popular Science: Why you should never ever feed bread to a duck

Nat Geo: What are mallards?

Nat Geo: What are omnivores?

Canal & River Trust: The duck and lettuce taste test

BackYard Chickens: The ULTIMATE list of DUCK Treats and Supplements…

22 thoughts on “Stop Feeding Ducks Bread

  1. “Is there anything else we should avoid feeding ducks, swans, and geese?” “Nuts”
    “OK, so what sort of foods do ducks eat in the wild?” “berries, fruit, and nuts”

    1. We were thrown by that, too. Turns out ducks do eat nuts/seeds, but we probably shouldn’t second-guess what types or how much.

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