Everything You Need To Know About Ducks

Ducks standing in grass near a shore

They say that birds of a feather flock together, but there’s just something unique about ducks that makes them so beloved worldwide. After all, these fascinating waterfowl are found on almost every continent of the world. In fact, a study from 2017 by the Ducks Unlimited conservation group found that there were an estimated 47.3 million ducks worldwide. That’s almost the entire population of Spain!

It’s even more interesting to consider that some of these ducks are in the wild, some are kept on farms, and some of them are… in household bathtubs? Apparently, the duck’s vibrant, “talkative” personality makes them a popular pick as a pet!

It’s no secret that these curious creatures are full of spunk. They’re intelligent, exceptionally social, and love to eat, making them akin to dogs. Not to mention, ducks come in a variety of stunning breeds, coloration’s, and patterns.

Everyone knows a mallard and its dynamic colors when they see one. Not many people know, however, that the familiar white duck actually has a name “the Pekin duck” and it’s bred primarily for meat and eggs.

There are many more fascinating things to know about the world of ducks, including one thing that might just leave you speechless. We’ve got everything you need to know about ducks here in one complete guide, so don’t waddle away!

Ducks may come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but they all seem to start off as fuzzy yellow ducklings!

What Types Of Ducks Are There?

There are mainly three groups of ducks, dabbling ducks, diving ducks and perching ducks. Ducks is a waterfowl in the family Anatidae. Swans and geese are also members of this family and in this family there are around 166 difference species.

I found 30 of the common ducks and today I want to share them together with some quick information about each duck.

Types of Dabbling Ducks

Below is a table showing common dabbling ducks.

American Black Ducks2-4 years.
American Wigeon2 years.
Blue-Winged TealUp to 17 years.
Cinnamon Teal10 years.
Eurasian WigeonUp to 35 years.
Northern Pintail22 years.
Wood Duck3-4 years.
Mallard5-10 years.
Northern Shoveler2-3 years.
Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck15 years.

Types of Diving Ducks

Below is a table showing common diving ducks.

Bufflehead2-3 years.
Canvasback10 years.
Ruddy Duck13 years.
RedheadUp to 22 years.
Common Goldeneye20 years.
Hodded Merganser11 years.
Red-Breasted Merganser9 years.
Greater Scaup10-12 years.
Harlequin DuckUp to 15 years.
Black ScoterUp to 10 years.

Types of Perching Ducks

Below is a table showing common perching ducks.

Blue Duck12 years.
Torrent DuckUp to 18 years in captivity.
Brazilian DuckUnknown.
Comb Duck20-30 years.
Pink-Eared DuckUnknown.
Hartlaub’s Duck20-30 years.
Cotton Pygmy Goose15 years.
Mandarin Duck6 years.
Ringed Teal10-15 years in captivity.
Maned Duck15-20 years.

If you want to read more in-depth information about these ducks then check out Outforia.com.

What Do Ducks Eat?

Wild ducks tends to eat plants, seeds, insects, snails and smaller fish. They always eat, what is offered to them in their surrounding, which is near or in water. Domestic ducks often eat specially formulated duck feed pellets, eat insects, grains, mealworms, vegetables and fruits.

If you happen to meat ducks in the park, the wild or in your garden and want to know what to feed them, then look no further. I’ve compiled lists of what vegetables, fruits, grains, insects and human food they can eat, as well as what they can’t eat.


What it comes to vegetables there are many that are healthy for ducks such as peas, corn, lettuce, bell peppers. Root vegetables like carrots and beets can also make for a tasty and nutritious treat when chopped into manageable sizes.

They are often rich in vitamins and minerals, making veggies the perfect snack for ducks.


Ducks, both wild and domesticated, naturally include fruit in their diet, which is beneficial for their health. Fruits provide essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fibers, contributing to ducks’ growth, feather health, and energy levels.

Ducks show a preference for certain fruits like berries, apples, and grapes, which are safe and nutritious when given in moderation. However, not all fruits are suitable for ducks, and some can be harmful. It’s important for duck keepers to know which fruits are safe and to prepare them properly to avoid choking hazards.

The inclusion of fruit in a duck’s diet is not just about preference but also about meeting their nutritional needs.

See our comprehensive list of fruits ducks can eat.


In the diverse world of ducks, their dietary habits offer a fascinating glimpse into the adaptability and versatility of these birds. Among the varied items on their menu, berries hold a special place, especially for certain species of ducks. This section explores how ducks incorporate berries into their diet and the significance of this choice in their overall nutrition and behavior.

The Berry Connection

Ducks, known for their omnivorous diet, often turn to berries as a seasonal feast. Berries come into the picture primarily during late summer and autumn, aligning with the ripening period of these fruits. Species like the Wood Duck and the Mallard have been observed indulging in this seasonal bounty.

The ingestion of berries serves multiple purposes for ducks. Firstly, it provides them with a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants, crucial for their health and vitality. Secondly, during migration and in preparation for winter, these high-energy fruits offer an essential boost, aiding in fat accumulation which is vital for endurance.

Dietary Preferences and Habitat Influence

The preference for berries is not uniform across all duck species. It largely depends on the habitat and the availability of food sources. Ducks inhabiting regions with abundant berry-producing plants are more likely to include these fruits in their diet.

Wetlands, forests adjacent to water bodies, and riparian corridors are typical habitats where ducks can be found foraging for berries.

Impact on Ecosystem

Ducks consuming berries also play a pivotal role in seed dispersal. As they travel and defecate, the seeds of consumed berries are spread across different areas, aiding in the propagation of various plant species.

This ecological role highlights the interconnectedness of ducks with their environment and the broader ecosystem dynamics.

See our list of berries that ducks can eat.

Grains & Seeds

Grains and seeds offer a nutritious snack that’s both easy for ducks to digest and packed with energy. This is particularly beneficial during colder months when ducks need extra energy to maintain their body heat.

Seeds, on the other hand, are rich in fats and proteins. These nutrients are vital for feather health and overall growth, making seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds a perfect treat.

Feeding grains and seeds to ducks can be an interactive experience. People often enjoy the simplicity of offering these treats to ducks at local ponds or parks.

See our list of grains that ducks can eat.

Flowers, Plants & Herbs

Ducks are often seen as charming waterfowl, gliding across ponds and lakes, but they also have a lesser-known side as foragers of plants and flowers. These birds, with their diverse diet, play a vital role in their ecosystems. Ducks primarily consume aquatic vegetation, but they don’t shy away from land-based plants and flowers either.

Their preference for plants and flowers stems from the nutritional benefits these provide. Aquatic plants, which form a large part of their diet, are rich in essential nutrients and minerals. Ducks eat a variety of these plants, including duckweed, water lilies, and pondweed.

The consumption of these plants not only nourishes the ducks but also helps control the growth of excessive vegetation in water bodies, maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

On land, ducks often feed on grass, leaves, and even flowers from common garden plants. This aspect of their diet is particularly noticeable in urban or suburban areas where ducks might venture into gardens in search of food. While they are not typically destructive, they can occasionally damage plants by trampling or overfeeding.

Interestingly, ducks also contribute to plant propagation. Seeds consumed by ducks can pass through their digestive system unharmed and are then dispersed in different locations through their droppings. This natural process of seed dispersal aids in the spread of various plant species, contributing to biodiversity.

Make sure to check out our list of plants, flowers and herbs that ducks can safely eat.


Ducks are integral to controlling insect populations in various ecosystems, thanks to their varied diet which prominently includes insects. They consume a wide range of insects such as larvae, beetles, flies, and mosquitoes.

This not only fulfills their nutritional needs but also aids in maintaining ecological balance by preventing the overpopulation of harmful insect species. Ducks’ feeding habits, therefore, contribute significantly to natural pest control, making them a vital component of their habitats.

The hunting methods of ducks are equally fascinating and effective. They forage in shallow waters or at the water’s edge, skillfully using their sensitive bills to sift through mud and vegetation to find insects. Some species can even catch insects mid-flight.

This natural pest control is particularly beneficial in agriculture, where ducks help reduce the reliance on chemical pesticides. Their presence in fields is often encouraged by farmers, underlining the importance of ducks in sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management.

You can find a list of insects that duck can eat here.


In the fascinating world of duck nutrition, incorporating nuts as treats presents an intriguing balance between benefits and potential risks. Nuts, known for their high protein content, offer substantial nutritional value to ducks.

Protein is crucial for ducks, aiding in muscle development and overall health. This aspect is particularly beneficial during molting periods, when ducks require additional protein for feather regrowth.

Yet, the high fat content in nuts poses a concern. Ducks, like many animals, can face health issues from excessive fat consumption. It can lead to obesity and associated complications, which are particularly problematic in domestic ducks with limited exercise opportunities. This elevated fat content, while a source of energy, necessitates moderation in feeding nuts to ducks.

When considering nuts as treats for ducks, variety and quantity control become key. Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts, in small quantities, can be a healthy addition to their diet. These nuts offer not only protein but also essential vitamins and minerals.

Be sure to check out our list of nuts that ducks can safely eat.

Human Food

Ducks, with their playful demeanor and affinity for water, are a frequent sight in ponds, lakes, and sometimes in urban parks. These feathered friends often interact with humans, leading to instances where they consume human food.

The feeding of ducks by humans, often seen as a harmless and enjoyable activity, especially for children, has deeper consequences than many realize. The type of food typically given to ducks, such as bread, crackers, or popcorn, is far from their natural diet and can lead to nutritional imbalances and health issues.

This shift in diet can not only affect the physical health of ducks but also alter their natural behaviors and ecological roles. It’s crucial to understand the full scope of this interaction between humans and ducks, as it intertwines with broader themes of wildlife management, conservation, and our responsibility towards nature.

We’ve created a big list of human food that ducks can eat.


Ducks, like many birds, have a unique digestive system, and grit plays a crucial role in it. Grit consists of small stones or sand. Ducks do not have teeth, so they cannot chew their food. Instead, they swallow it whole.

Grit accumulates in the gizzard, a muscular part of a duck’s stomach, where it aids in grinding down the food, facilitating digestion.

Types Of Grit And Sources

There are two main types of grit: soluble and insoluble. Soluble grit, mainly composed of calcium sources like oyster shell, dissolves in the digestive system, providing essential minerals. Insoluble grit, such as small stones or commercial grit, doesn’t break down and is more effective for grinding food.

Ducks can find natural grit in their environment, especially in sandy or pebbly areas near water bodies. However, domestic ducks might require supplemented grit, especially if they’re kept in areas without natural access to these materials.

Grit And Nutrient Absorption

The grinding action of grit is vital for nutrient absorption. Without grit, ducks might not adequately break down their food, leading to poor nutrient extraction. This is especially crucial for ducks consuming whole grains or other hard-to-digest foods.

Adequate grit intake ensures that ducks receive the full nutritional benefits of their diet.

Monitoring Grit Intake For Duck Health

For duck keepers, monitoring the grit intake of their ducks is essential. A lack of grit can lead to digestive issues, while too much can cause impaction. Offering a separate container of appropriate-sized grit allows ducks to self-regulate their intake according to their needs.

Observing ducks’ eating habits, along with regular health checks, can indicate if their grit intake is balanced with their dietary needs.

How Do Ducks Eat?

Ducks, like many birds, have a unique feeding mechanism adapted to their toothless anatomy. Despite lacking teeth, ducks effectively consume a variety of foods, including insects, small fish, and plant material.

Their beaks and tongues are specially adapted to their diet, with filters to sift food from water and strong muscles for digging or grazing. This adaptability in feeding habits allows ducks to thrive in different habitats, showcasing their evolutionary success in exploiting available food resources.

Ducks also uses their evolved taste buds to find food that suits their dietary needs.

What Can Baby Ducks Eat?

Ducklings can eat pretty much any soft, digestible food they can find. A tasty treat of dandelion greens, Swiss chard, worms, moistened oatmeal, chopped grass, and other weeds are their best edibles. Somewhat, it’s quite a task satisfying their ravenous appetites for their vigorously growing bodies. And usually, ducklings tend to eat quite a lot as they wean, which significantly reduces as they grow. Also, they tend to drink a lot of fluids, so having sufficient clean water around can be handy.

What Do Ducks Eat In The Winter?

Ducks usually savor vegetative foods in winter, including rice, wheat, corn, and acorns. However, they wouldn’t lose the chance to munch on various seeds. Also, a diet of bugs and other tiny invertebrates such as snails and slugs helps build their protein reserves. However, please don’t be overly concerned about them dropping their appetites during this cold season since it’s perfectly natural.

What Do Ducks Eat In Ponds?

Duck tongues filter through the sludge and sediments in the ponds for tiny live insects and bugs. And since worms are easily digestible and satisfying for their appetites, they wouldn’t throw away the chance to play in ponds, dipping their heads in the water for a short while. Also, ducks look for water snails and amphibians in ponds, including baby tadpoles or newts in these marshy ecosystems.

What Is a Duck Mouth Called?

A duck mouth is called a bill or beak. Unlike other birds’ beaks, duck bills are flattened and blunt at the tips. Besides, they’re broad with rows of fine notches along either edge called lamellae. These lamellae act as primary filters for sediments in the water and mud for worms and other tiny aquatic insects. Duck beaks don’t have a specific color but vary depending on their body color or appear more varied altogether.

Do Ducks Have Ears?

Ducks have ears, unlike humans, which are relatively easy to spot. They’re located right below and behind their eyes and seem like tiny holes. Mostly, these holes are covered with little feathers called auriculars to muffle wind disturbance during flight and offer more protection.

How Do Ducks Float On Water?

Ducks have compact feathers with minuscule interlocking barbs that aid in trapping air to increase their buoyancy. Besides, the preen gland at the base of their tails releases oil that spreads on their feathers to repel water, further aiding their ability to float. Similarly, their hollow bones are too light to pull weight, enabling them to float.

Watching ducks floating while flapping their wings is often mesmerizing, and it all seems natural. However, while they do that out of intuition, there’s usually a valid reason their instincts guide them to. Air is generally weightless; the more they store it in their bodies, the more it increases their volume and drops the mass to volume ratio, infusing buoyancy.

Also, their body fats and oils lower their density, and they can float in the water quite effortlessly.

Duck floating in water.

Do Ducks Need the Energy to Float?

Ducks usually don’t use even an ounce of energy to float; it comes naturally and effortlessly. However, they only need to balance their bodies and position them right to keep afloat for long. Ducks may need to paddle their feet if they need to move around, which is relatively easy due to their webbed feet.

How Long Can a Duck Float in Water?

While ducks can float in water for as long as a day and as much as they please, their best span should be several hours. Afterward, they may get tired and become less mobile. Usually, ducks stay afloat in the water and drift around when they get tired, so they may not need to come out of the water for some rest. That means minimizing activities such as paddling and diving for food underwater.

Do Ducks Paddle to Float?

Ducks only paddle their feet to move around and not to stay afloat. Their bodies have all the features to enable them to remain above water effortlessly. When they feel tired, they minimize all body movements and stay still on the water to regain energy before resuming activity. Paddling helps them dive into the water or relocate places.

Can Ducks Drown in Water?

Ducks can drown in water, but that only happens under a few conditions. Injuries, hypothermia, and water-logging are the practical reasons a duck may drown instead of staying afloat. However, exhaustion is a rare cause since ducks can stay still in the water to restore their energy when tired. Exhaustion can only be fatal under intense activity like vigorous mating or a predator charging after them while they escape.

Remember that ducks can also dive into water purposefully to capture underwater prey, including larvae and bugs. So, don’t get nervous if your duck disappears underwater for a while. Only make it your concern if they stay underwater for more than a minute, which is quite the period they can survive without breathing.

Why Do Ducks Quack?

Ducks do quack for several reasons, but it’s usually more dominant when startled or warning others about imminent danger. They do that to communicate or get attention when alone, but some species like mallards do it often when mating.

Ducks may also quack when happy, but the typically loud “Honk” sound usually becomes apparent to express excitement.

Do All Ducks Quack?

Although duck quacking is quite cliché, some ducks surprisingly don’t quack. Most males usually don’t quack as much as the females and may sound raspy or give out suppressed quacks. Some breeds like the Muscovy ducks do it since they prefer staying quiet and enjoying their calm.

However, most other breeds like the mallards, American black ducks, and Pacific black ducks are synonymous with quacking. They do it more when startled, and their females take it over the edge with loud and frequent quacking.

Why do Male Ducks Not Quack?

Male ducks don’t quack because they don’t have the specialized vocal cords to produce the sound. These technical chords vibrate differently from the standard ones. Besides, their voice boxes (larynx) are positioned differently than females, disabling them from making this unique sound.

Some males may sound like they’re quacking in a more suppressed manner, although that’s unlikely for all duck breeds.

Why Do Ducks Quack at Night?

Ducks don’t usually quack at night since they spend most of that time sleeping, grooming each other, and staying close. However, ducks may quack at night when they feel threatened and have to warn others about possible danger.

It’s a standard response to stimuli, and they do that almost involuntarily. Ducks may also quack in the wee hours if they’re feeding. It’s typical behavior for domesticated ducks, especially if food is in their vicinity.

Ducks in the wild prefer hiding their presence by staying quiet at night to avoid predators. However, they can quack at night in a secure habitat.

Do Ducks Quack When Sick?

Ducks tend to be so quiet when sick and will hardly quack. Instead, they’ll appear crouching with their eyes closed and move minimally. Wild duck breeds may not even fly away when approached and won’t make any startled sound if they’re severely sick.

Domesticated breeds also won’t seem bothered with humans approaching them either. Always be on the lookout for imminent signs of sickness and treat them as soon as possible to prevent worsening.

Do Ducklings Quack?

Baby ducks don’t quack as adults and will instead make cute chirping sounds to express excitement or discomfort. They’ll chirp more when hungry and thirsty and sometimes do it more when sick.

These sounds can be more pronounced at night and go far and beyond, almost insuppressible. Ducklings may begin quacking as they near maturity, and it’s usually a sign that they’re ready to reproduce.

What Do Ducks usually Do When Quacking?

Ducks usually bob their heads as they quack rhythmically, which is quite apparent when they’re about to mate. It’s a typical public display of affection, and the behavior becomes less noticeable with time as they string into a more “meaningful conversation” after meeting up. Most ducks would stretch their necks, thrusting their heads ahead, and appear restless when quacking.

How Do Ducks Sleep At Night?

Ducks are semi-nocturnal and don’t spend their entire night in slumber. Mostly, they sleep in groups in the comfort of each other’s warmth, mainly in a row. According to a study, ducks sleep for about 10.8 hours a day while choosing to groom each other or have a “chit-chat” for the time they’re awake.

Wild duck species always look out for nocturnal predators at night and will have a few members as watch guards, remaining alert to notify the rest in case of impending danger.

Can You Have A Duck As A Pet?

Ducks make great pets for a number of reasons. They are relatively easy to care for, and they are interesting to watch. In addition, ducks can be quite friendly and will often follow their owners around.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that ducks require a lot of space and possibility to poop outside. If you live in a small apartment, a duck may not be the best pet for you. The poop stinks a lot and diapers are not comfortable for ducks.

Do Ducks Bite?

There is no simple answer to this question as it depends on the context and situation in which the duck is encountered. In general, ducks are not aggressive animals and will only bite if they feel threatened or attacked.

However, there are some ducks that have a tendency to be more aggressive, such as the Muscovy duck, and they may be more likely to bite people or animals if they feel threatened.


Ducks are amazing water fowls, with great character and super cute to look at. Every time me and my family go to the park we always feed the ducks and my kids love it! We did not know better and fed them bread for the first couple of times. I finally did some research on what ducks can eat and created the lists you see above.

There are so much better things to feed ducks than bread, that will make them full and happy. My daughters wanted to know more about wildlife and ducks, the result became this awesome page about ducks.

I hope you find the information useful, thanks for reading!

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