What to Feed Ducks and Geese Instead of Harmful Bread

A mallard duck being hand-fed breadcrumbs in an outdoor setting.

As a kid, we regularly got rid of stale bread by taking it down to the pond and feeding the wild ducks. Unfortunately, it is really bad to feed bread to ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl and wild birds. Beyond the harm it causes the birds, it also pollutes the environment. Here’s what to feed ducks instead of bread, and these alternatives are much healthier for both your feathered friends and the planet.

A duck swimming in water with text overlay about feeding ducks.


Female Duck Wading in Stream at Riparian Preserve in Arizona

I have always loved ducks, from the one I tried to pet when I was a preschooler (it bit me) to the flock I strolled by every day on campus during graduate school.  As a kid, my sister and I thought we were being good citizens of the planet by taking our old bread to the ducks at a nearby pond. In school at the University of New Mexico, I often ate my lunch by the duck pond on campus, sharing a few chunks of bread from my sandwich or a few potato chip crumbs with the braver web-footed creatures who approached me.

It turns out, it’s incredibly dangerous to feed ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl bread. And, the bread not consumed by wild birds pollutes waterways. This threatens the other wild animals in the ecosystem like fish, turtles, and other wildlife that depend on aquatic vegetation and clean water supplies. So if you love to observe the wildlife in your community (and didn’t know this important information), please stop feeding the ducks bread and junk food!

Fortunately, there are many other foods that are safe to feed ducks at the local park. And, feeding ducks these foods reduces the amount of food you toss out in the trash or grind up in the garbage disposal.

Related Article: 100+ Duck Quotes That Will Quack You Up

Sign about what to feed ducks at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert AZ

What Do Wild Ducks Eat?

A balanced diet for wild ducks include grasses, earthworms, slugs, aquatic plants, small fish, and similar nutritious food sources available in their habitat. Wild ducks also eat grains, but in its raw unprocessed state and certainly not ground into flour and baked into bread.

Can You Feed Ducks Bread?

No, bread is bad for ducks! And I don’t just mean processed white bread. All bread products, including banana bread, cornbread, croissants, and breadcrumbs should be avoided. You should also never feed ducks junk food like crackers, chips, donuts, and popcorn. 

Just like with humans, these junk foods offer little nutrition to birds. Feeding waterfowl these products can lead to malnutrition, disease, and weight gain. It also increases the bird’s dependency on humans and reduces its ability to take care of itself in its natural environment.

Bad, bad, bad!

One of the biggest health issues caused by feeding ducks bread is a condition called angel wing syndrome. It causes a deformity in the bird’s wings, reducing its ability to fly and increasing its vulnerability to attack or other injuries.

Female Duck Swimming in Water

So What Can Ducks Eat?

Instead of bread, healthy treats for ducks includes fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s also safe to feed ducks specially formulated pellets and to let them forage for their own worms and bugs. Below is a more detailed list of foods that are safe to feed ducks.

Swans gliding in the water

Do You Like to Feed the Ducks?

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What to Feed Ducks Instead of Bread

Whether you are headed to a local park or raising ducks in your backyard, here are several healthier, more environmentally-friendly foods that ducks love:

1. Bird Seed

Whether it includes millet, sunflower seeds, or another mix, any type of bird seed is safe to feed ducks instead of bread.

2. Duck Feed Pellets

Specially formulated for ducks, duck feed pellets are a common duck food for female ducks that are raised for their eggs and meat. These duck feed pellets float for over an hour reducing the waste that sinks into the water.

3. Corn

You can feed ducks fresh or dried corn. Fresh corn can be defrosted frozen corn or freshly cut from a cob. When it comes to dried corn kernels, be sure to coarsely grind dried corn kernels before you feed ducks cracked corn. By breaking the dried corn kernels into smaller pieces, it’s easier for the ducks to eat.

Sage Advice:  Be careful feeding ducks cracked corn, fresh corn kernels, or canned corn near the water. If consumed by fish, it can be hard for them to digest.

A bowl of dried oats

4. Oats and Similar Grains

Whether its steel-cut, rolled, or quick, uncooked oats are a better alternative to bread to feed ducks. You can also feed ducks wheat, barley, and similar grains.

Sage Advice:  It’s harder to put a dent in the Costco-sized box of oatmeal in our pantry with just one kid left at home. So we keep one container for the ducks, and the other for my daughter’s breakfast.

5. Rice

Ducks love grains of rice. It is safe to feed wild ducks both cooked and uncooked rice.

6. Grapes

Be sure to cut grapes in half- or quarter-size pieces so that they are easier for the duck to eat.

"When giving treats, like the fruits and vegetables on this list, be sure to feed in moderation. They shouldn't be more than 10% of your duck's diet."

7. Berries

Ducks love a wide range of berries including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. 

Sage Advice:  When it comes to strawberries, enjoy the juicy red berry and save the green tops to feed the ducks and other herbivores in your neighborhood.

A bowl of juicy red strawberries
Photo Credit: Canva.

8. Melon

From cantaloupe to honey dew to watermelon, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl love melon.

9. Stone Fruit

Fruit with a large seed (or stone) at the center — like cherries, plums, peaches, and apricots are all fine to feed the ducks. However, it’s best to remove the stone first.

10. Other Fruit Safe for Ducks

Ducks also love apples, pears, and bananas. However, you should avoid feeding ducks mangoes and citrus (like lemons, limes, and oranges).

11. Peas

Fresh peas and defrosted frozen peas are both safe foods to feed ducks and other waterfowl.

12. Vegetable Peels and Scraps

Instead of throwing vegetable scraps in the trash or grinding them up in your garbage disposal, save them to feed the ducks. Ducks enjoy carrot and cucumber peelings, radish tops, and lettuce trimmings. Just be sure to chop the vegetable scraps into small pieces before feeding the ducks.

13. Worms

Ducks are omnivorous. That means that ducks eat both animals — like insects, small fish, and worms — as well as plants. From mealworms to earthworms, it is safe to feed ducks worms as they are part of a wild duck’s natural diet. However, ducks should be actively seeking natural food sources and should be able to find worms on their own.

Crested Duck Swimming

Common Questions About Feeding Ducks

Can You Feed Ducks Leftover Food?

It depends on the type of leftovers you have in mind. As a general rule, both backyard ducks and wild ducks enjoy grains as well as fruit and vegetable scraps. But some human foods are better than others. 

Can You Feed Ducks Bananas?

Yes, like most fruits, banana pieces are safe to feed ducks. 

Can You Feed Ducks Bird Seed?

Yes, any type of bird seed is safe to feed ducks instead of bread.

Can You Feed Ducks Cheerios?

Whether you’re asking about original, honey nut, cinnamon, or multi grain Cheerios, it’s best not to feed them to a duck, goose, or other bird because they include ingredients like sugar, brown sugar syrup, salt, and preservatives.

Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?

It’s fine to feed ducks chicken feed. But ducks, and especially ducklings, need more niacin in their diets than chicken feed provides. Ensure ducks get the niacin they need by sprinkling nutritional yeast on their chicken feed and offering niacin-rich foods like peas, raw or cooked sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

Can Ducks Eat Corn?

Yes, it is safe to feed ducks dried cracked corn, fresh corn cut from the cob, and defrosted frozen corn kernels. 

Can Ducks Eat Crackers?

No! Like bread, crackers and other processed grains have  little nutritional value. Do not feed these junk foods to ducks!

Can Ducks Eat Cucumbers?

Yes! Ducks, geese, swans, and other waterfowl enjoy a wide variety of vegetables and vegetable scraps. Whether you feed the ducks cucumber peelings or pieces of cucumber, be sure to chop them into small pieces first.

Is it OK to Feed Ducks Peas?

Yes! Like corn, ducks can eat both fresh and frozen defrosted peas.

Do Ducks Eat Lettuce?

Ducks love a wide range of vegetables, including lettuce and other leafy vegetables. But just as you should limit the amount of iceberg lettuce you consume (due to its poor nutrition), the same is true for ducks. Feed ducks romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, or chard instead.

Can Ducks Eat Millet?

Millet is a cereal crop similar to barley, rice, and wheat. This starchy grain is grown for human food as well as animal feed. And like other grains, millet is safe to feed ducks.

Can Ducks Eat Peanuts?

Peanuts are safe for ducks to eat, but they should be offered sparingly. And like dried corn, it’s best to roughly chop the peanuts before feeding them to ducks.

Can Ducks Eat Popcorn?

No! While it’s safe to feed ducks fresh, dried, or defrosted corn kernels, it is not safe to feed ducks popcorn.

Can Ducks Eat Potato Chips?

No! Potato chips are on the list of empty calorie junk food no nos like bread and crackers. Do not feed potato chips to ducks.

Can a Wild Duck Eat Potato Skins?

While ducks enjoy eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, you should avoid feeding ducks potato skins. White potatoes are part of the nightshade family and toxic to ducks. In addition to potato skins, do not feed ducks tomatoes, eggplants, or bell peppers as these plants are also nightshades.

Can Ducks Eat Rabbit Feed?

If you have ducks and rabbits living together, a mature duck that sneaks a few bites of rabbit feed won’t be harmed. But as a general rule, it’s best to feed ducks one of the approved items on this list.

Can Ducks Eat Radishes?

Yes, like cucumber peelings and cucumber pieces, ducks can eat radish tops and diced radishes.

Can You Feed Ducks Rice?

Yes, it is safe to feed ducks rice, either cooked or uncooked.

Can Ducks Eat Rice Cakes?

While rice cakes are made from rice (which is safe to feed ducks), they also include ingredients like sugar, fructose, and other ingredients that are not good for ducks. So stick to rice rather than rice cakes when feeding the ducks.

Can Ducks Eat Steel Cut Oats?

Yes! Similar to millet, rice, and other cereal crops, oats are safe to feed ducks. Sprinkle quick, rolled, or steel-cut oats out for ducks. 

Can Ducks Eat Strawberries? What About Strawberry Tops?

You bet! Like a wide range of fruits and vegetables, ducks enjoy both the green tops of strawberries and the fruit.

What Fruits are Safe for Ducks?

From berries to stone fruits to melons, most fruit is safe to feed ducks. Even bananas! Just be sure to remove the stones, seeds, and core before feeding fruit to ducks. And, you should never feed ducks mangoes, lemons, limes, oranges, or another citrus fruit.

What Do You Feed Wild Ducks and Ducks at the Park?

What do you like to feed ducks instead of bread? Where do you feed ducks, geese, and waterfowl in your community?

Thank you for sharing!

31 thoughts on “What to Feed Ducks and Geese Instead of Harmful Bread”

  1. I always knew I shouldn’t feed bread to ducks, but had no idea why! Thanks for the education 🙂 Now I have to go find some ducks, we haven’t fed any in years!

    1. It is my understanding that ducks can eat fish food, just be sure to do so in moderation and not as a primary food source.

  2. What Are ducks eating in their smallish park pond when they just keep dipping their beaks in the green, opaque water? They’re not starving. I don’t see ducks being fed, either.

    1. In the wild, ducks feast on insects, grasses, seeds, and aquatic plants. While paddling in the water, likely water bugs and plants/plant pieces.

    2. I have raised ducks for MANY years and my go-to feed and treats are Flock Party brand Egg Maker Pellets AND Flock Party brand Dried Millworms. I also provide a bit of both to a family friend who ask me some time ago about feeing ducks on their lunch break at work. A little common sense will ensure the longevity and protection of our feathered friends and their habitats as well as the beauty we all so enjoy!! God Bless!!

  3. I have a mama duck who just set up residence in my front yard under an evergreen bush. She has laid eggs and there she sits. Should I set any food or water out for her?

    1. Awwww! We had a momma duck nest under our front porch last season. It was wonderful watching her come and go (and the ducklings eventually hatch) via what we dubbed “duck cam.”

      Momma should be able to find food for herself while she’s incubating her eggs. But you can put out a bowl of drinking water and some of the duck-safe food items in this article out for her. Just don’t place them too close to the nest.

      As soon as the little guys hatch, she’ll march them down to the nearest waterway and that will be that!

    1. While it’s safe to feed ducks fresh, dried, or defrosted corn kernels, I do not recommend feeding ducks popcorn.

      1. As a treat for our ducks, we go to the pet store and buy a couple dozen goldfish “feeders” and release them in their pond. The go after those little guys like it was crack! That and a bag of dried worms and you become their closest friend…

  4. Melanie Murphy

    Thank you for this lovely article! I didn’t know about melon or the peas! I always have melon because it’s delicious and I don’t mind sharing <3

    1. Hi Mona! That’s a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. If you are feeding ducks at a nearby pond or local park, I’d suggest sticking to one of the items on the list above. If you’re asking the question to feed backyard ducks, I recommend checking with a veterinarian. Let me know what you find out!

  5. Thomas Esposito

    Yeah. This all sounds great. I have a small pond in the backyard and I’ve tried feeding the ducks corn, blueberries and brocolli. They won’t touch it. So I wrap up the broccoli in bread and they eat it.

  6. Great article with very good advice! I didn’t know that ducks are things like strawberry and radish tops. Very easy to keep a resealable bag or plastic box with oats in your car for impromptu visits to feed the ducks. 👍

    1. Yes, they love strawberry and radish tops! And I’d rather share with the ducks than toss them into my compost bin.

  7. Grapes are the only fruit I see on your list. Does that mean other fruits are of limits? If not, what other fruits are okay? And would that include peelings, too?

    1. It’s safe to feed ducks a wide variety of stone fruit, berries, melons, and more! Just be sure to remove the pits from peaches and other stone fruits and the peels from bananas before feeding fruit to ducks. Do NOT feed ducks mangoes or citrus (like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges). Thanks for stopping by and asking your question!

      1. I want to remind people who feed ducks at local parks or other places where people take their dogs NOT to feed grapes. Grapes are very toxic for dogs, and you don’t want a dog to eat any grapes left by the ducks.

        1. Yes! That is such a good reminder! (And I have two fluffy butts that would ABSOLUTELY eat a grape if they found it at the park!)

        2. Shouldnt be an issue if people keep their dogs on a leash and pay attention to what goes in their mouth.

          Grapes or not, dog owners need to be doing both of those things. There’s tons of toxic stuff for dogs to get into everywhere. If the owner can’t be bothered to leash and monitor their companion, then that’s their fault.

  8. All of the alternatives you have offered I’m sure are good for ducks. But all of them make it pretty hard to stop by a pond with ducks and have fun feeding them. I was hopeful when I saw the rice cakes question but no even that something you could break in your hand and give them pieces of us no good. So I guess I can try corn but I’m sure it will get lost in the grass in Florida. Not real helpful.

    1. While it’s fun feeding ducks, it’s also important not to feed them something dangerous. We keep a container of oatmeal for the ducks. We buy it in bulk at Costco, so it’s incredibly affordable, and it lasts forever. We also chop up all of our fruit and vegetable scraps — the green tops on strawberries, carrot tops and peels, the ends of cucumbers. If it’s a day we can feed the ducks, it’s all set to go, nice and easy. If it’s a day we can’t we compost it or sprinkle it along the edge of the woods in our backyard (and make the rabbits happy).

    2. What’s not really helpful is you feeding ducks bread out of convenience to you.
      Its very bad for them and can cause defects like angel wing and they cant fly.

      Canned corn is really easy i do it all the time. Put it in a dish or yes toss it in the grass. If the ducks see you toss it there theyll go find it.
      I have mallard friends that return every March. They must not have a problem with it.

      Whats even easier is to just not feed them at all if healthier food for them isnt convenient for you.

    1. Personally, I wouldn’t. Reading over the list of ingredients in my dog’s food, I’d stick to the items on this list as they are more in line with what ducks, geese, and other waterfowl would find on their own. Hope that helps!

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