If you’re looking for outdoor activity ideas to encourage your children to love animals you can’t go far wrong with feeding wild ducks at your local lake or park.

One of the first nature encounters that many toddlers and children experience is feeding bread to the ducks. It’s a brilliant way to spark their interest in birds, nature and wildlife.

You don’t need to live in the country and it’s a great outdoor activity for all the family, whatever the weather.

But is it good for the birds and what do ducks eat?

The joy of duck feeding! Muscovys at Hackthorne, Lincolnshire

Did you know that bread can be bad for birds and the water they live in? (we’re feeding duck seed in these photos)

What do wild ducks eat?

In the wild the natural diet of ducks and geese is pond weed and other aquatic vegetation as well as seeds, small insects and worms and small water snails. Larger birds will even eat amphibians and crustaceans like crayfish!

Is bread really bad for ducks?

I first learnt that bread can be bad for ducks and geese in 2011 (Caroline was under two!) when ‘No Bread-Feeding’ signs appeared on the bank of a local lake and the visitor centre started selling wild bird seed in paper bags.

It seemed like a money-making ploy on behalf of the park but in fact proved to be a worthy conservation exercise.

Image of sign showing male mallard and writing asking that ducks be fed healthy food and not bread with grass and trees behind

The sign explains all.

Too much bread really is bad for ducks, geese, swans, watercourses and all wild birds.

Why is bread bad for ducks?

Bread offers poor nutrition to birds, it can reduce their natural behaviour and creates water pollution.

      • Bread, particularly white bread, offers unbalanced nutrition and insufficient calories in winter
      • It may make birds feel full when they haven’t actually eaten enough causing malnourishment
      • It may affect their behaviour, reducing natural foraging for the right food
      • Overfeeding can result in rotten bread creating bacteria and algae that pollute the water, poisoning birds and aquatic life

Read on to find out what to feed ducks instead of bread. It turns out that there are lots of things that are much better for them.

Image of yellow and black fluufy mallard duckiling standing on wooden plank in stream with bankside plants in background

Image of girl in purple fleeces and pink trousers bending with hands on knees to meet pair of swans and cygnet on grass in front of trees

Image of girl in blue coat with hood up squatting on mud next to river feeding seed to juvenile mallard ducks

What to feed ducks responsibly

If your local park doesn’t sell seed, what can ducks eat safely instead of bread?

The Canal and River Trust recommend these foods for wild ducks: –

      • Sweetcorn, tinned, fresh or frozen (defrosted first)
      • Lettuce, ripped up
      • Frozen peas, defrosted
      • Oats, flapjacks and instant porridge oats
      • Seeds from the pet shop or supermarket
      • Rice, cooked or uncooked
      • QuackSnacks – responsible, convenient wild duck pellets

NB Seeds don’t always float so scatter on the ground or in shallow water within swans’ reach.

For more information download their duck guide and see links at the bottom of the page on what food to buy.

Try environmentally friendly QuackSnacks

Another great option is Quacksnacks. I recently discovered them through The Canal and River Trust and love their child-sized packs of wild duck pellets, delivered direct to your door.

QuackSnacks provide balanced nutrition combining wheat, maize, soya, fish meal, vegetable oil, vitamins & minerals which ducks and geese seem to love.

Image of cardboard packet with small packets of pellets, a hessian pouch with Quacksnacks and Canal Trust written on plus blue marketing sheet for Quacksnacks

Quacksnacks reduce plastic waste

Even better, Quacksnacks are attempting to reduce plastic waste with new packaging. Kids of the Wild got to try them out first!

Their new packets are made from 100% recyclable pure pine wood cellulose (similar to greaseproof paper) with cardboard delivery boxes using a 60% bio-based packing tape.

We water-and-duck-tested the pellets with wild kids of all ages and the conclusion is:-

      1. Ducks love them
      2. Kids love them too!

Try Quacksnacks or any of the other food options above but whatever you do, please don’t feed bread to ducks.

Image of male and female mallard ducks on grass

Wild wishes for fun family encounters when you take your children to feed the ducks!

More inspiration

To find out what you need to know about feeding and caring for wild birds in the garden read my year-round garden bird feeding guide

Encourage garden birds by making this easy coconut bird feeder.

Learn how to hang a nestbox to attract birds to nest in your garden.

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Buy duck food and accessories

Click on the images to purchase on Amazon.

Children’s i-Spy birds book

QuackSnacks 6 pack

Swan and Duck food

13kg bag floating swan and duck food

Bird identification guide