Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

What Do Mallard Ducks Eat? Everything You Need to Know!

Last Updated on

mallard duck on grass

The Mallard duck is a widespread breed in North America. They are known commonly as the “fastest flying ducks,” with a speed of up to 55 miles per hour. These ducks are very social and are primarily found in large flocks. You can identify mallard ducks by their distinctive, harsh quack.

Mallard ducks live in areas with an abundance of water. This is why their diet consists of aquatic plants and animals. They eat a variety of foods, from algae and crustaceans to snails and insects. Mallard ducks also eat grains, acorns, and berries.

These ducks make North America’s ponds, lakes, and rivers an attractive tourist spot. However, many conservationists worry that the population of these ducks is declining due to several reasons, such as predation, hunting, habitat loss, and pollution.

Since these birds feed on freshwater organisms, polluted water makes it hard for them to stay healthy. This article will help you explore more about the diet of Mallard ducks.

shutter camera divider 2

What Do Mallard Ducks Like?

Mallard ducks are omnivores, so they can simply eat just about anything. They prefer eating crustaceans, insects, snails, algae, and several other aquatic plants and organisms. In addition, their diet includes different fruits, particularly strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Not only that, but these ducks will also eat grain and nuts.

In winter, mallards are seen feeding on acorns. However, that’s not their preferred meal. Since Mallard ducks love water and live mostly in aquatic habitats, they also eat small fish.

While you’re most likely to find these ducks eating aquatic food, they also eat multiple land-based foods like grasses and seeds. So, in a nutshell, a Mallard duck’s diet includes a variety of land-based and water-based foods.

mallard-beinmallard being feed by handg-feed-by-hand_smiler99_shutterstock-4830520-8789991

Image Credit: Smiler99, Shutterstock

A Mallard Duck’s Favorite Foods

Like most duck breeds, Mallard ducks are not too picky about their food. They can eat anything clean, healthy, and suitable for their taste buds. If you don’t know what to feed to a Mallard duck on your next visit to a pond, here are their 12 best favorite foods:

Insects

Mallard ducks love to eat insects. If you spend an entire day near a lake, you’ll see these ducks consuming large numbers of insects all the time. For ducks, insects are the best source of helpful nutrition, such as protein, calcium, healthy fats, and iron.

Moreover, they are equally delicious and healthy for them. Some insects that Mallards enjoy eating are flies, beetles, and ants.

Worms

Like insects, Mallards are also fond of eating worms. These organisms are a good source of protein and healthy carbs that enhance the duck’s health and strengthen their body’s immune system. So, you’ll see the Mallards digging their beaks in the ground to find insects and worms for dinner.

Seeds

Mallard ducks are fond eaters of seeds. They can even eat several seeds throughout the day without getting bored. This food is rich in beneficial nutrients that keep the ducks healthy and help them grow and fight against predators.

Some beneficial seeds that Mallards like are sunflower, sesame, and flax. While sunflower seeds are good for immunity and the heart, flax seeds are high in omega-3 fats that keep the ducks in optimal health. On the other hand, sesame seeds are known to support strong bones.

mallard duck eating

Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

Grains

Mallards may not prefer grains over seeds, but they still eat them. The most common types of grains that Mallards eat are oats, wheat, and barley. Like seeds, grains have their own set of benefits that keep the ducks healthy and active all day long.

Oats are rich in beneficial protein and fats that are easy to digest for most animals. Similarly, barley is filled with nutrients, strengthening the duck’s immune system.

Tree Leaves

Being an omnivore, a Mallard’s diet also includes leaves and grasses. These ducks can quickly eat, chew, and digest the leaves of various trees, including elm, maple, and oak. The leaves of all these trees are filled with nutrients that keep the duck happy and healthy.

While oak tree leaves are famous for their antioxidant properties, maple leaves are well-recognized as effective astringent.

Grass

Along with leaves, Mallards also love grass. Grasses are rich in fiber and keep the duck’s stomach healthy. Plus, they are readily available, so ducks don’t struggle to find them.

Mollusks

The diet of a Mallard duck usually varies based on the food available and the time of year. If these ducks come in contact with mollusks, they don’t spare them. They like to eat a range of mollusks, from clams and mussels to oysters.

Like other foods, mollusks are also full of nutrients. For instance, oysters are rich in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that keep the ducks healthy, energized, and active throughout the day.

flock of mallard ducks in the lake

Image Credit: Piqsels

Aquatic Invertebrates

Aquatic invertebrates, such as worms, crayfish, and snails, are the best sources of nutrients for Mallards. Since these ducks live in water habitats, they always have access to these food items. However, finding and catching these organisms can be quite challenging.

Snails and worms are rich in nutrients, like protein and carbs, making the duck’s diet healthy and nutritious. You’ll probably see Mallards dipping their beaks in the water whenever they spot a snail, worm, or crayfish swimming around.

Small Fish

Fish are superfoods consisting of a wide range of nutrients. They are rich in protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, iron, niacin, and many more health-boosting nutrients. Not only that, but they are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. All these ingredients make them the best food source for Mallards.

These ducks usually enjoy small fish, such as perch, minnows, and trout. These fishes are high in all the above nutrients, making the duck’s diet full of nutrients and health benefits.

Crustaceans

Crustaceans provide the Mallard ducks with a delicious alternative to small fish and mollusks. Crabs and shrimps are the favorite foods of Mallards. Luckily, crustaceans have a high protein level, essential nutrients, and robust flavors.

Crabs are known as a healthy way of strengthening the brain and body. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids that prevent several health conditions.

mallard duck swimming in the water

Image credit: NickyPe, Pixabay

Vegetables

Mallard ducks also enjoy several vegetables. Although the consumption of vegetables is not as high as seeds or insects, these ducks still eat an adequate amount every day. The most common Mallard-favorite vegetables are carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.

Fruits

If available, Mallards also enjoy eating a wide variety of fruits daily. These include grapes, berries, cherries, and apples. All these fruits are super-healthy and beneficial for all living beings.

For instance, apples are suitable for the heart, berries are loaded with antioxidants, cherries keep the blood pressure at optimal, and grapes contain vitamin C and K. So, on your next picnic near the lake, don’t forget to offer these fruits to Mallards and make them your friend.

What Is the Daily Food Consumption of a Mallard Duck?

mallard ducks in snow

Image Credit: Jahor, Shutterstock

The daily food intake of a Mallard duck varies depending on the animal’s size, activity level, and age. Typically, these ducks require ¾–1½ pounds of food daily.

You may see that Mallards eat more in winter than in summer. That is because they require more calories in winter to keep their bodies warm. In addition, Mallard ducks are usually considered free grazers. This means they eat foods in small quantities throughout the day instead of consuming two or three big meals.

However, the number of their meals may depend on the availability of food and the time of the year. They may start eating larger meals if they don’t get enough food.

Young Mallard ducks may eat more frequently, requiring more nutrients to grow. Besides, these ducks have a higher metabolism rate than other duck breeds, so they usually eat more to keep their energy levels balanced.

shutter camera divider 2Conclusion

Mallard ducks enjoy a wide variety of foods to stay active and healthy the entire day. Their most-loved food items include insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, fruits, aquatic organisms, fish, and even vegetables. Not only that, but mallards are also seen feeding on seeds, nuts, grains, and acorns.

Because of their high metabolism rate, these ducks usually eat more than others. They typically consume ¾–1½ pounds of food daily. However, the Mallard duck’s diet may vary depending on their age, time of the year, and food availability.

If you visit the lake in winter, you have a greater chance of seeing these ducks eating more to keep their bodies warm.


Featured Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.

Jeff Weishaupt Profile Picture