Is giving ducks bread smart?

Of course, there is nothing more fun than going with your kids to feed the ducks.

But is that romantic picture actually true? As many as 30% of breeding mallards have disappeared and no one knows the cause. To find out, Bird Protection and Sovon have declared 2020 the Year of the Wild Duck. Bread is surely not the main cause of their decline, but no one wants to make it harder for them than it needs to be. If it is true that feeding is bad for them, shouldn’t we stop doing that?

Or so the question is: does bread indeed cost the ducks years of their lives and thus contribute to their decline? So adamantly, no one knows. But it is certain that eating a lot of bread is not healthy for ducks. It is too one-sided, so they miss nutrients and that is bad for their immune system: so they get sick earlier. Moldy bread is even toxic to them.
By the way, did you know that ducks mainly eat grass, aquatic plants and small aquatic animals in winter and they can find them just fine: much healthier!

If you are the only one giving bread to a duckling then maybe it won’t hurt. But if you don’t know who will be bringing you bread before and after you… then it becomes a little bit more difficult, of course.

Nuisance and pathogens

Another counter-argument: large quantities of bread are often left lying around, which attracts not only ducks, but also rats and mice. Or it is eaten by gulls and jackdaws that sometimes cause nuisance in the neighborhood.

In addition, bread left lying around pollutes the water and is a breeding ground for algae and pathogens. The extra amount of duck poop also contributes to this, of course, because where many ducks gather to eat, there is also a lot of pooping. Who wants dirty, smelly, murky water? Splashy fresh it must be.

Can you give ducks fruit?

A common question is whether you can give a duck fruits and vegetables, the short answer is yes.
However, it is important that you pay attention to how much you give them.
Fruit contains a lot of sugar, although ducks also need to keep their sugar levels up it is still wise to be careful with the amount you give them.
Examples of fruits you can give them are: pieces of apple, pear, strawberry, melon, grapes and peach. Make sure you always give the ducks small, clean pieces of fruit and that the seeds have been removed. Many of these kernels contain substances that are toxic to various animals.

Like fruit, ducks may also eat a variety of vegetables. Good options for this are: cucumber, peas, corn, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower florets and broccoli. All of these vegetables contain various vitamins that are good for ducks.
To compensate for the fruit, you can feed the ducks some seeds and kernels such as: hulled sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Be aware that ducks do not have enough fruit, seeds and kernels. But that should only be a “snack” and never their main food.

Feeding healthy ducks: 5 tips

No worries, despite all the counter-arguments, you may just feed ducks with the (grand)children. Because, all those disadvantages you can nullify by feeding responsibly. So:

  • Feed as little bread as possible. A capful of old, unmolded bread won’t hurt much, but keep it limited, no whole loaves!
  • Offer the animals variety if you want to supplement: peas, corn or other grain (chicken feed). There is even special duck food and waterfowl food for sale.
  • Do not feed too much, it should go up where you stand.
  • Help the ducks further by creating a snow-free area so they can reach the grass.
  • Ask the municipality not to ban feeding, but to post an information board about proper feeding. You are helping the ducks with that too!

Reprinted from The Bird Protection Netherlands and

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