What Do Animals Eat? Everything From Ants To Zebras

What Do Mallard Ducks Eat?

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Mallard ducks will eat a variety of foods. This type of duck is considered to be omnivorous, which means it has a varied diet of plants, animals and other items. They feed at the surface of the water and are very flexible as to what they will eat. The diet is also going to be determined by not only the food available but also breeding cycle as well as competition between other species for the same food source. This particular duck is not limited to just one sort of diet, rather they have several different choices.

A male and female Mallard duckMallard or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos). Photo by Richard Bartz.

Invertebrates & gastropods

Mallards have a wide variety of choices when it comes to invertebrates such as flies, caddisflies, dragonflies, lepidopterans and beetles. Worms and crustaceans also round out the mallard diet in this particular classification. With such a variety of food available to them, they are able to find good food no matter where they are.

Tubers and roots

This is also a staple of the mallard diet. Roots and tubers play an important role in the nutrition of the Mallard. Bulrushes, hackberry, barley and roots of swamp trees make an important part of the mallard diet. Any roots or tubers that they can find are added to their diet.

Plant matter and seeds

Mallards also feed on the seeds that they find during foraging, as well as plant matter. Seeds in the diet include primrose, willow, oak, wild rice, wheat, corn and barley. They can also eat water elm seeds as well as other seeds that they find foraging.

Frogs and other animals

While some of the animals that mallards eat have already been listed above, they also eat frogs, small fish, insects, freshwater snails and fish eggs. So the diet is varied depending on location as well as what life cycle the mallard is in. Since they do not dive into the water like other birds, they can get more by tipping their heads under the water to feed themselves.

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15 Comments on What Do Mallard Ducks Eat?
  1. MARYANNE:

    I LIVE ON THE CANAL ON LONG ISLAND AND HAVE BEEN FEEDING THE DUCKS (MALLARDS) IN MY YARD. THEY WAIT FOR ME & COME UP ON MY DECK FOR FOOD. I HAVE BEEN FEEDING THEM DRY CAT FOOD (WHICH I WAS TOLD IS OKAY TO GIVE THEM) BUT NOW I HEAR THAT IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THEM AND CAUSES DEFORMITIES. I FEEL BAD TO STOP FEEDING THEM, BUT AT THE SAME TIME I WOULD NOT WANT TO FEED THEM SOMETHING THAT WILL HARM THEM. I HAVE ABOUT 30 DUCKS WAITING FOR ME EVERY MORNING & EVENING. MY OTHER CONCERN IS IF I KEEP FEEDING THEM, THEY WILL NOT FLY SOUTH FOR THE WINTER. IT IS OCTOBER 17TH (2012) AND IF I JUST STOP FEEDING THEM NOW, WILL THEY STILL GO SOUTH??? PLEASE ADVISE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

  2. admin:

    Hi Maryanne,

    I think the best thing is to stop feeding. They need to head south for the winter. The good news is that, they will be back, as always and you can start feeding them when they do.

    As for their diet, you can try roots and even seeds. They will love it.

  3. RON:

    MARYANN MY WIFE AND I LIVE IN SANDY HOOK CT AND HAVE OVER 100 DUCKS ,WE FEED THEM CRACKED CORN,ONCE IN AM THEN AT ABOUT 3:30.ABOUT 50 STAY YEAR ROUND, WHEN IT GETS COLD THEN WE HAVE 100 TO 200 . WE OPEN THE DOOR AND THEY COME UP TO STAIRS TO EAT,IT:S AT THE POINT THAT THEY EAT OUT OF MY HANDS. I”M GOING TO POST SOME PICTURES ON LINE SOON.

  4. admin:

    Hi Ron,

    I can’t wait for the pictures. Can you post the link here?

  5. Terry:

    Maryann!
    They have baited areas where I live and the wardens feed ducks, mostly wild mallards. How do the mallards find the feed in marshes that have brakish or dirty water? Can they see the food or smell it? How much can a wild mallard consume in a 12 hour period or how much will they eat in a day? They are usually feeding corn right into the marsh areas.

  6. Lily:

    This was extremely helpful!! Thanks for the great articles!

  7. Suzanne:

    Last year a pair of mallard ducks started showing up at my daughters house every morning and afternoon. She started feeding them cracked corn. This went on for a month or more and then they disappeared. Didn’t see them until a about two weeks ago. Now every morning and afternoon they show up for food. Not only do they go to my daughters house but have crossed the street to my house. They walk up the driveway and go to my back yard and jump into my fish pond. They stay for hours……swimming around…..eating and then hop out. She seems to be sleeping while he keeps a close eye out for danger. My only problem with this is I only hope they are not eating my goldfish. I have watched them and have never seen them come up with a fish in their beaks so hopefully the fish are smart enough to stay in the bottom. Not sure if I should put a net over my pond to keep the ducks out or just let them enjoy the water.

  8. admin:

    Hi Suzanne,

    As long as they are not too hungry, they would probably stay away from adult goldfish. Baby ones may not be so lucky.

  9. Mary:

    I have been feeding them wild bird seed. Is it okay to do so?

  10. caring:

    a pair of mallard ducks have been coming every morning to our backyard near the seawall. they stay for an hour or two. then they walk inside the yard to the bottom of an avocado tree. i feel the mommy is about to lay eggs and they are scouting for a place to nest.
    what should i feed them? the daddy duck has a nice blue collar and the mommy duck is mostly gray/brown and smaller. where did they come from?

  11. Suzi Race:

    I was amazed to learn that ducks will eat frogs. I gathered this because my son was out filming some biking friends near some water. On a break from that he was distracted by some ducks which were feeding,. By pure chance he started filming the duck just as it plucked a frog from the water and guzzled it down! A fantastic and rather freaky moment!!

  12. Sal Bianco Jr:

    Hi Guys: Two days ago We were visited by a Mallard and his Wife. We live in a gate community in Central Florida, where it’s nice all year round. Well, they come back each morning and sit under my three birds feeders. We have a small flock of Goldfinches living in a greenbelt in the back of our property. As the birds feed, they shower bird feed all over the ground, and our ducks have a ball.
    Reading here today, I learned about corn and will try to spread some around. Trouble is we also have about 8 very energetic squirrels who think the bird feed is for them and anything that falls is their’s as well.

  13. tara:

    I have a mallard pair that swims on my pool cover. I have been feeding them wheat bread. Is this ok? What else can I feed them that I may have alread the house?

  14. Cydney:

    There is a mother mallard who has made a nest outside my class room window. Other than keeping kids and maintenance people away, how can I help her?

  15. David Burkett:

    I live in an apartment in the city of Chula Vista California, (San Diego), with my wife and daughter when last year, two beautifull Mallard male Ducks suddenly flew into the common area by the pool and have since stayed around the pool relaxing. My wife, daughter and I named them “Paul” and “Petey”. Paul & Petey are great to look at and are very friendly, mainly Paul. Petey seems a bit skiddish. We have been feeding them whole wheat bread and worms. They are now tapping the sliding glass door in the early morning hours to let us know that they are here and ready for breakfast. We think they’re simply great feathered friends and a great addition to the residents of Aloha Vista Apartments.

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