- Food: Ducks are omnivorous and with their hearty appetites will sample a wide range of different foods. Ground-feeding areas or large, low platforms may be suitable for ducks, and they will readily feed on cracked corn, spilled birdseed, and kitchen scraps including vegetable trimmings, oats, and wheat. Planting berry bushes can also help attract ducks, and using mulch in garden areas will give these waterfowl ideal foraging areas for earthworms and insects.
- Water: Ducks require significantly more water than more common backyard birds, and while a small ground bird bath may be suitable for a drink, larger ponds are best for attracting ducks. A pond can include a fountain or waterfall for the splashing sounds that will help attract birds, and different depths—from shallow shelves to deeper diving holes—will appeal to more duck species and provide a better overall habitat. For the best results, the pond should also include aquatic plants such as reeds and lilies, and a half-submerged log or overhanging rocky shelves can also give the pond a more realistic, natural touch to encourage ducks to visit.
- Shelter: Ducks can be nervous when they are out of the water, and tall marsh grasses planted around the edge of a pond will help them feel secure. A brush pile can provide additional shelter for ducks, and they will use shrubby cover as necessary to stay protected.
- Nesting Sites: Ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in concealed grassy areas close to a pond to brush piles that may be quite some distance from the nearest water source. Providing duck boxes can help attract nesting ducks, and ducks may even use planters or flower boxes as impromptu nesting sites. Some ducks are cavity-nesters and will use large, hollow snags for nesting.
- Duck Accommodations
- Proper Management Keeps Waterfowl Numbers Growing Year after Year
- Getting Ducks To Visit Ponds – How To Attract Ducks To Your Garden
- Attracting Ducks to Your Property
- How to Attract Ducks to Your Garden
- Other Tips on Getting Ducks to Visit Ponds
- How to Attract Wild Ducks to Garden Ponds & Lakes 2020 (Tips & Methods)
- The Best Ways to Attract Wild Ducks To Ponds (Useful Tips & Tricks)
- Should You Attract Ducks To Fish Ponds? (Ducky Downsides)
- Attracting Migrating Waterfowl to Your Pond
- Provide a Sense of Security for Migrating Waterfowl
- Have an Ample Food Source for the Migrating Species
- Create an Inviting Setting for the Waterfowl
- Pond Size Matters to Migrating Waterfowl
- Ducks & Carp together?
- How Big Does a Pond Have to Be for Ducks?
- Ducks and Water
- Pond Uses
- Artificial Pond Size
- Wildlife Pond Size
- Stacking Functions
- Assessing a Duck Pond
- Irrigation, aka Fertigation
- Fish Cultivation and Biofilters
- Edible/Useful Water Plants
- Wildlife Habitat
- Ducks as Pest Control
- “Safe” House for Ducks
- Backyard Feature
- Duck Food Plots
- FOOD PLOTS FOR DUCKS
- How big a fish can a duck catch?
- What else can Ducks eat?
- Wild Ducks
- Do ducks catch fish?
- Do ducks eat mosquitofish?
- Do ducks eat fish in a pond?
- What type of fish do mallard ducks eat?
- Do ducks scare fish away?
- And Lastly…
Proper Management Keeps Waterfowl Numbers Growing Year after Year
Brad Fitzpatrick | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine. To subscribe, .
Perhaps you are an avid waterfowler who manages your property first and foremost to attract ducks and geese. Or maybe you are a deer hunter with a bottomland lease that floods in winter and you’d like to turn the area into a two-season property, a place to pursue big bucks in the fall and ducks in the winter. Either way, it makes sense to manage your property for waterfowl. Even if you don’t hunt ducks odds are that someone in your hunting area does, and leased ground that houses bucks and ducks is certainly worth more money for the land manager.
Duck management is not difficult and it’s rewarding to draw migratory birds to your property. You increase your value as a wildlife manager, make the most money on your lease holdings and have the opportunity to enjoy some great waterfowling action in the process. But managing property to attract passing waterfowl is a very different proposition than keeping that big buck in your core area. By following these seven steps you will be well on your way to improving your property’s value and bringing in the birds.
Choose an Isolated Area
There are certain key criteria that waterfowl look for in a feeding pond. First and foremost for the ducks is safety, and birds will avoid a pond or slough that is too close to roads, buildings, people and pets. Select and area that is secluded and quiet and you will certainly draw in more ducks, particularly if the area is near a flyway. Once you establish a wetland area or pond try and avoid spending excessive time in the area and keep vehicles and farm implements away from the pond. Isolated areas away from dense cover and surrounded by open ground make it more difficult for predators to kill ducks, which means that you are likely to keep more birds on the water throughout the season.
Dig Shallow Ponds
A fishing pond and a duck pond are two entirely different things. Most common species of ducks like mallards actually prefer shallower ponds, so there’s no need to dig a dedicated duck pond that is more than a few feet deep. This will also make planting and managing water levels simpler. Duck ponds should also have gradually sloping edges for easy access by the birds. In addition, steep sides make it more difficult to plant aquatic plants and less likely that the water will provide the type of feed most ducks need.
If you have a bottomland forest that floods regularly it will likely attract ducks, especially if key food species like oak and cypress are flooded. Seasonal floods are unpredictable, and with either a manmade pond or a flooded area it’s best if the pond has a dam that allows water levels to be lowered and raised. Such dams are relatively easy to build, requiring little more than a closable valve and a system of releasing water. Though not all ponds will have dams that allow for the control of water level, they help greatly in waterfowl habitat management. It is important to note, though, that if you are planning to provide nesting habitat for ducks the pond should not be drained during the summer.
Provide Plenty of Nesting/Resting and Feeding Cover
The value of feeding and nesting or resting cover cannot be overemphasized when the goal is attracting waterfowl. Ducks have keen eyesight, and approaching flocks are assessing your pond or lake as they make their initial approach. To keep the birds on the line and draw them in you’ll need a good combination of feeding and nesting cover.
As previously stated, ducks prefer ponds with gradually sloping banks, and such ponds are easy to cultivate in and around. Begin by establishing nesting and loafing cover around the edge of the pond. Mossy Oak’s Nativ Nurseries offers two seed blends that are ideal for providing the necessary “wall” of cover waterfowl prefer. Both “Barrier Blend” and “Bedding Blend Cover and Habitat Mix” will provide an attractive ring of security to birds while also serving as a visual barrier for predators and other hunters. In addition, Mossy Oak’s Native Nurseries also offers their Water’s Edge Wetland Mix. Water’s Edge is a combination of 25 of Nativ Nurseries’ seeds, including varieties of sedge, rye, smartgrass and a variety of other seeding plants that provide food as well as cover for waterfowl. By lowering the pond level slightly it is possible to plant Water’s Edge along the border of the pond or wetland. When the plants are established water levels can be raised and you will provide migrating waterfowl with and irresistible blend of food and cover.
Control Undesirable Plants
Certain plants do nothing to attract ducks and may, in fact, keep birds from coming in to your hunting area. Japanese honeysuckle growing on the side of a pond makes it difficult for ducks to get in and out of the water. Even cattails, which we commonly associate with duck ponds, provide little dietary benefit for ducks. If you are serious about drawing in ducks and keeping them coming back year after year it is important to remove undesirable plants from wetland areas and ponds. These plants can be removed manually, chemically or by burning. In ponds where the water level can be manipulated many property managers drain ponds dry in the summer to clear out undesirable plants. Just like deer, ducks are attracted to areas where there is sufficient cover and food. By allowing unwanted plants to take over your pond you minimize the chances of drawing in waterfowl. Instead, plant seed blends that will make your property more attractive to waterfowl.
Ducks are on the menu for just about every predator on your lease, including raccoons, opossums, fox, coyotes and even snapping turtles. For this reason, ducks are very particular about where they nest, roost, loaf and feed. The first step to increasing duck populations is to reduce the toll predators take on waterfowl on your property. This can be accomplished in several ways. First, it is essential to establish a predator control plan. This may involve trapping, hunting or posting barriers to prevent predators from killing ducks.
One key element to reducing predation is to provide a visual barrier that prevents predators from seeing and stalking your birds. In much the same way that experienced upland managers mow curved paths through their game fields to prevent predators from being able to hunt by sight, waterfowl managers need to provide boundary cover that makes it more difficult for passing predators to attack ducks. Planting something like Barrier Blend will serve to separate your birds from passing predators. Spend the off-season hunting and trapping predators on your property and preparing wood duck boxes.
Leave Logs and Timber
Flooding stands of timber during the late season is a great way to attract ducks. Most deciduous tree species are not negatively affected by low-level flooding during their dormancy stage after the leaves have fallen. Trees provide ducks with secure roosts, cover, and, in some species like wood ducks, nesting habitat if the water in your pond is standing during the spring and summer.
If you’ve got a low lying area in your lease that floods regularly the area will likely be a prime area to manage for ducks, though seasonal rains are variable. The best option, once again, is to have some method of controlling water levels. Flooded timber is also a prime location for planting seed blends like Water’s Edge, which will provide a source of food and cover. Be sure to plant Water’s Edge on high points in the timber before it floods, preferably in mid to late summer. When the water level rises in the fall these “islands” of high ground will serve as waypoints for passing ducks and will provide both food and shelter as the birds migrate. Establishing these feeding and resting areas in flooded timber are guaranteed to bring passing ducks in year after year.
Control Hunting Pressure
Ducks are highly sensitive to hunting pressure, so it is essential not to overwhelm your established duck hunting hotspot. Some property managers suggest at least three or four days between hunts, while others suggest waiting long as a week between trips. The amount of pressure you can put on an area and keep ducks coming back varies depending on the species you are hunting, the number of ducks in an area, how long they’ve had to imprint on the spot and your proximity to an established flyway.
The key to successful waterfowl management is security; you must provide ducks with an area where the birds feel they are safe. If you spend too much time in the blind that will have long term effects on your success, especially when you are managing a smaller (1-2 acres) body of water.
The longer you manage a property the better it can become. New ducks will imprint on the spot each year and those you don’t harvest remember where they found sanctuary and food in the past. If the property is large enough, having a safe zone or sanctuary can help to build numbers year after year. Just like a refuge, a safe area for your waterfowl will be remembered on their annual journey south.
It’s possible to turn your property into a “waterfowl haven” with a bit of work and planning. The rewards are many, but understanding waterfowl ecology is essential to understanding how to manage your property for ducks. Providing plenty of food and cover are the two most important elements for drawing birds in. If you manage your wetlands correctly by providing attractive cover, controlling predators and planting seed blends that are designed to provide the necessary food and shelter for birds you can enjoy years of successful duck hunts on your property.
Looking to build a duck hole of your own? You’ll need to ready Building Wetland Habitat for Ducks | The Process of 404 Permits first!
• Find out how to keep ducks if you are a beginner, including the best duck breeds and what equipment you’ll need.
• Learn where to house ducks, what to feed them and what to do with the duck eggs.
Ducks are the comedians of the poultry world. All that you need to start keeping ducks is enough space for them to dabble and preen, a pond with access to a simple duck house and a run to protect them from predators. Some breeds of duck lay a large number of eggs, their droppings will turn your compost into top-grade fertiliser, while their slug hunting prowess is legendary.
Before buying your first team of ducks, check that your neighbours won’t mind a raucous dawn chorus in spring and then charm friends for surplus stock or scour poultry magazines. The British Waterfowl Association or Call Duck Association can also help. Keep the ratio of ducks to drakes at around five to one (or frisky drakes can give the ducks a hard time).
Photo: Alun Callender
Best duck breeds for eggs
Opt for easy-to-keep breeds.
– Campbells are ace egg-layers, and are low-maintenance and friendly.
– Call ducks are dear little things – weighing less than a kilo and available in a range of colours. They eat grass and cause little damage in the garden.
– Indian Runner ducks (the breed of duckling and duck pictured top and above) will lay well and enjoy foraging, but can be timid, so need careful treatment.
Where to keep ducks
No one who has seen how ducks take to water would deny them a pond. The Domestic Fowl Trust (01386 833083) supplies a basic pond, but ducks are messy, so the bigger it is, the better. They will also need a netted run (£250, Amazon – or make your own), but try to let them wander as much as possible – bearing in mind their security and how fussy a gardener you are. Make sure your breeder supplies newcomers with wings already trimmed, because they need to be curtailed until they know their address.
What to feed ducks
Ducks need water, grit to digest food, plus grain and feed. An omnivorous diet of grain, in the form of mixed corn with a little protein, bought as pellets (Allen & Page and Marriage’s are good brands) will satisfy. This can be supplemented with garden insects and leftover rice, bread and pasta. Feed your birds from a hopper in their house in the morning and then again in the evening to lure them to bed. Ducks can see in the dark and will not head to bed without bribery.
Photo: Cristian Barnett
What to do with duck eggs
Duck eggs are underrated. However, their shells are more porous than those of other poultry, so bacteria can pass into the egg easily, especially if the flock is kept in mucky conditions. With scrupulous hygiene and prompt collection – their shelf life is a mere eight days – your duck eggs will be safe and brilliant for baking, though less likely to whip up to a peak (so no meringues or soufflés). You don’t need a drake for your ducks to lay.
Store them in an airtight container – £2.99, Amazon.
How to care for ducklings
As an experienced duck keeper, you may decide you want to increase numbers. Fertile eggs take 28 days to hatch. Ducklings are enchanting to raise, although with more ducks comes extra mess. It can be hard to contemplate, but excess drakes are best killed young for meat (with expert attention) – though having had a good life, they will be very tasty.
Cleaning and care
Ducks are hardy and great fun to keep. Allow plenty of space, keep bedding clean and dry, offer shade in summer and shelter in winter, and your flock will repay your efforts a hundredfold.
For more information on how to keep ducks, read Keeping a Few Ducks in your Garden by Francine Raymond (Kitchen Garden Hens), and The Domestic Duck by Chris and Mike Ashton.
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Getting Ducks To Visit Ponds – How To Attract Ducks To Your Garden
Wild birds are enchanting in the home landscape, fun and funny to watch and add to the natural feel of the garden. Ducks, in particular, come in many sizes and colors, and are one of the more entertaining species of birds to have around the homestead. Native waterfowl are an indicator of a healthy environment and their migratory activities ensure different species at different times of the year. If you wish to know how to attract ducks to your garden, look no further – read on for some tips and tricks
Attracting Ducks to Your Property
Waterfowl management isn’t just something for which the National Parks Department is responsible. As good stewards of land, it is incumbent for us to aid in the regulation and provision of wild animals. Attracting ducks to your property may be for purposes of bird watching, hunting or simply as a distraction. No matter your goal, wild ducks in garden ponds are lively additions to the landscape and you can feel good about providing them with their food, water and housing needs.
If you have ever watched wild ducks in action, then you know they must have water. Ducks prefer shallow fresh water ponds. This is an inarguable requirement for having waterfowl in your landscape. If you already have
a pond, you are in luck; otherwise, you will need to build one.
The pond should have several depths to attract different species of ducks and aquatic plants for food and cover. Tall marsh grasses are easy to grow and provide protection for visiting fowl. The ideal pond will have sloping sides so the animals can easily get in and out of the water. Some birders swear that waterfalls and other noisy water features also help in attracting ducks to your property. Getting ducks to visit ponds starts with the coverage and clean water of your pond.
How to Attract Ducks to Your Garden
Once you have a nice aquatic space for your feathered friends, it is time to address food. Ducks are omnivorous and eat a wide range of plant and animal species. They can be fed on a platform with cracked corn, birdseed, kitchen trimmings and oats or wheat. To avoid having to replenish food stations, simply grow crops of barley, buckwheat, millet, corn or other grains in a field which can be flooded lightly.
This is useful in larger landscapes where there is plenty of space and a flooded field isn’t an imposition. A dike is useful to keep the flooded area intact. Alternatively, plant sedge, rye, smartgrass, bulrush and other seeding plants around your pond as both cover and food. The tall plants will make ducks feel secure while feeding and the nodding seed heads provide an alternate diet.
Other Tips on Getting Ducks to Visit Ponds
Wild animals like to feel safe when engaging in feeding and nesting behaviors. Other animals on the property can actually be a repellent because they are potential predators of the fowl. Dogs, especially, are scary to birds and even a large tomcat can be dangerous to nested babies.
Do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides near the water site and use duck decoys to entice lonely ducks to stop in for a while. Nesting sites encourage wild ducks in garden ponds. Nest boxes may attract breeding fowl, but they should be placed in areas with good vegetative cover and where eggs will be safe from predators.
Ducks spend a lot of time just resting. Provide logs, rocks and other sites to entice the birds to take a load off and enjoy your garden while you enjoy watching them.
How to Attract Wild Ducks to Garden Ponds & Lakes 2020 (Tips & Methods)
Help Spread Pond Keeping Knowledge!
Waterfowl include a large number of bird species, including the widespread mallard ducks.
Waterfowl compose an important part of many aquatic ecosystems around the world, and includes three different families: Anhimidae, Anseranatidae, and Anatidae. The most commonly known family is Anatidae, which includes approximately 147 different species of ducks, swans, and geese that can be found worldwide. Within the family of Anhimidae includes only three species, known as screamers, which are a type of large South American bird that are most well-known for the loud, strident screams that they emit when they feel threatened. Anseranatidae is comprised of only a single species – the magpie goose, found only in Australia and portions of New Guinea.
For almost all pond owners, the only family of waterfowl you’ll be able (or want) to attract will be within the largest anatide family. This family includes all the most common duck species, including the iconic mallard, the extravagant mandarin, and the mysterious wood duck.
Different Types of Wild Ducks (Dabblers & Divers)
Ducks come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but are often split into two categories: divers and dabblers.
Within the Anatidae family is the genus Anatinae, containing only ducks. Some of the most familiar species within this family that are native to the United States are the wood duck, mallard, America widgeon, northern pintail, scaups (both lesser and greater), blue-winged teal, and many others. Ducks are separated even further into two main groups: dabbling ducks and diving ducks.
Dabbling ducks have adapted to feed in shallow water, where they “dabble” in the water and mud with their bills for insects, macroinvertebrates, and vegetation. They have small feet that are placed more closely together to enable greater ease of movement on land and in shallow water. Diving ducks are fairly self-explanatory, and have evolved to be able to dive into water to feed upon the bottom of the water body or chase moving fare under the water’s surface. Their feet are larger and located farther back on their body than that of dabbling ducks, making it much easier for divers to swim and navigate underwater.
When Will Ducks Arrive? How Do You Identify Them?
Different species of duck will prefer different environments, such as the wood duck (pictured), which likes wooded marshes.
At which time ducks will arrive during the year, if they will show up at your water body at all, and how and where they nest depends entirely on the species. For example, wood ducks prefer wooded marshes, their year-round range includes the eastern and midwestern U.S. as well as portions of California, and they prefer to nest in trees with hollows or specially built nest boxes several meters above the ground to keep their young out of easy reach of predators. In winter, they stay in the western and southern U.S. as well as northern Mexico. Northern shovelers like shallow wetlands and freshwater ponds, and spend their summers in Canada and the northern portions of the U.S., migrating through much of the rest of the U.S. and Mexico during fall and winter. They nest by simply scraping a small depression into the ground, usually near water in an area surrounded by vegetation to shelter them from predators and the elements.
If you’re looking to attract certain species (or figure out which ones are native to your area), your best bet is to check out a comprehensive, detail-packed website such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology or Audubon to figure out their specific range and habitat requirements. If you want something a bit more convenient, you can download the free Merlin Bird ID App to your phone or other device that will allow you to identify any bird species that you see anywhere in the world, listen to their calls, see photos, and look up information such as habitat requirements for virtually all bird species. It’s incredibly easy to use, and can be quite helpful.
The Best Ways to Attract Wild Ducks To Ponds (Useful Tips & Tricks)
If you have a pond or a garden, ducks are well-known for contentedly eating nuisance slugs, tomato worms, Japanese beetles (an invasive species, anyway!) while finding garden fruits and vegetables to be largely unpalatable compared to insects. In ponds, many ducks will happily eat various fly species, aquatic insects such as water beetles, clams and snails that could get into your filters, and insect larvae among other things. Fancy having some ducks in your pond, garden, or lake? Below are a few methods to make your space more attractive:-
Air pumps will help keep ponds from freezing over, allowing sucks access to water during winter.
1) Keep Water Accessible (And Open)
Many common duck species, such as mallards, wood ducks, and shovelers prefer shallower water that is a few feet or less in depth. Make sure that your pond or lake has sides that gradually slope as opposed to being steep, for easier exit and entry for ducks. Shallow banks will also better enable aquatic and marginal plants to grow easily, which in turn will attract ducks. Having both shallow areas and a portion of your pond that is six or more feet in depth will bring in dabbling and diving ducks, respectively, and increase your odds of attracting ducks overall.
To keep non-migratory ducks around for the winter, incorporate a high-powered aeration system into your pond or a portion of the lake. This will create some turbulence that will help keep the water in that area moving and ice-free for ducks to drink and browse for any food items that may still be present.
Aquatic plants provide ducks with both shelter and a source of food, depending on species.
2) Add Aquatic Plants
Plants provide food (for some duck species) as well as cover to protect themselves and their nests from inclement weather and potential predators. Make sure that your pond or lake contains a variety of both aquatic and terrestrial plants, to provide plenty of cover on both water and land. Some ducks, such as redheads and canvasbacks, nest upon floating vegetation on the water. Others, like teals and pintails, prefer to nest on the ground with some form of vegetation surrounding them (brushy plants and tall grasses, for example). You should first figure out which plants are native to your area, so that you don’t include any that may be invasive or otherwise problematic. Often, a good mix of both floating plants, such as water lilies, and marginal plants, such as cattails and grasses, works best to provide ducks both shelter and protection.
Duck boxes are useful for attracting different species of ducks and allows for nesting.
3) Create Nesting Sites (Duck Boxes)
Ducks will not settle in an area that doesn’t have suitable nesting options. As mentioned previously, vegetation will be enough to entice some ducks. Others, though, require slightly more sophisticated digs. For example, wood ducks, mergansers (except the red-breasted merganser), goldeneyes, buffleheads, and many others prefer to nest in cavities off of the ground. If you have large trees on your property with existing cavities – perfect! If not, you can either build or purchase specific duck boxes and place them on trees or poles five feet or more above the ground. Be sure to space them 100 feet or more apart from one another. In addition, make absolutely certain that the box is made of untreated wood, as many treatments are toxic to birds and can cause serious health issues, birth defects, or even death. Some ducks will also utilize hollow logs, or conversely you could take a solid log and create an opening in it by hand.
Owl decoys are a good choice to deter smaller predators.
4) Deter Natural Predators
If there are too many predators in the area, such as foxes, raccoons, fishers, and cats, it can deter ducks from sticking around for too long. To combat this, you can utilize deterrents such as scent sprays, fencing, live trapping, and owl decoys. Furthermore, be sure to keep your pets indoors as much as possible, or at least in an area or on a leash away from the desired duck habitat. If you’re utilizing nest boxes, try placing them on a metal or wooden pole with a cone guard below the box that will prevent most predators from being able to climb to the box.
When choosing a deterrent method, we recommend not using sound or water based deterrents as these will also scare ducks away. If you’re selecting decoys, owl decoys will work best to deter small predators and make ducks feel safer in their environment. Using larger decoys, such as coyotes, which would naturally prey on waterfowl, will make ducks more nervous and less likely to land, so should be avoided.
Duck decoys can help encourage ducks to a pond by making it appear more secure.
5) Use Wild Duck Decoys
Ducks are rather visual creatures, and tend to follow their peers. Placing a decoy duck pair in the water will make it seem more attractive to ducks passing by, or at the very least pique their curiosity enough that they’ll check it out since they think that other ducks are there. If you have enough of the above requisites, they’ll likely stay for a longer period once they become comfortable in their new environment.
The more duck decoys you can add to your pond, the more chance you’ll have to attract ducks, as almost all species of waterfowl will feel safer in larger numbers. One of the best tactics would be to place a few floating decoys in the water, and some relaxed decoys resting on the banks, which shows that all areas of the pond are safe for birds!
Should You Attract Ducks To Fish Ponds? (Ducky Downsides)
Ducks should be kept away from fish ponds as they decrease water quality and can transfer parasites and disease.
Ducks are beneficial to lakes, natural ponds, and gardens, but could prove to be a nuisance or even harmful to garden ponds with fish stocks. Some duck species feed on fish, and diving ducks can stir up substrate that could cause damage to your fish and water quality. Aquatic plants may also sustain injury via browsing, and terrestrial plants via being trampled by ducks’ large, webbed feet.
In addition, defecation will contribute to waste that decreases water quality, and a smaller water body such as a garden pond will be less able to filter the waste, even with an added filtration system. Moreover, the waste will use up valuable dissolved oxygen and encourage algal growth. Ducks tend to move between water bodies, and are known to transfer bacteria and parasites from one to the next. This could spell trouble for any fish or other critters that you’ve stocked in your pond. With these things in mind, it is best to keep ducks away from fish ponds.
Attracting Migrating Waterfowl to Your Pond
From the avid hunter to land owners with an enthusiasm for wildlife conservation, there are certain practices and management tools that can increase the number of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds visiting your ponds, lakes and wetlands.
Increasing the number of migrating waterfowl that stopover in your pond annually has many benefits:
- attracting migrating waterfowl improves your pond’s contribution to wildlife conservation, it provides excellent bird watching and photography opportunities,
- and, it increases your land’s value as a hunting lease by providing multiple seasons to hunt.
- there are even Federal incentives to manage for waterfowl habitat (see links below) for ponds, small lakes, and wetlands in locations with suitable habitat.
Provide a Sense of Security for Migrating Waterfowl
Most importantly, an attractive pond for migrating waterfowl provides them a feeling of safety and security. Ducks will not feel safe enough to stop for rest and food during their journey if there is no vegetative cover, or if the water body is too close to human infrastructure. Vegetative cover and isolation give ducks a sense of security and entice them to stop and stay longer. Selecting the right plant species and mixes to propagate can play a big role in determining the quality of habitat for ducks. Retaining emergent aquatic vegetation such as cattails, American pond weed, American bur reed, bulrush, blue-flag, arrowhead, horsetail, primrose, and woody species like buttonbush and bald cypress can provide excellent cover for waterfowl.
Have an Ample Food Source for the Migrating Species
Food availability is another key factor in attracting and retaining wintering waterfowl. Sedges, ryes, duckweed, duck potato, smartweed, sago pond weed, water lilies, and button-bush can provide vegetative barriers from predators and food for wintering waterfowl. Retaining trees that produce small acorns or seeds that ducks can consume is also beneficial, but unless you are starting a new pond, planting trees may be unnecessary. If you have an established pond or wetland with trees, then more than likely there will be species that can withstand seasonal inundation like cypress, pecan, various oaks, willow, buttonbush, and wax myrtle which are all good for duck cover.
Create an Inviting Setting for the Waterfowl
The structure of your aquatic system can play a big role in duck occupancy. Shallow wetlands and flooded timber provide dabbling ducks with feeding grounds, whereas areas with deeper water adjacent to shallow areas with cover will benefit diving ducks. Constructed wetlands and shallow ponds that utilize moist soil management with valves, risers, and spillways can ensure the water level is ideal for the ducks you are trying to attract. Using such devices can also allow you to manage unwanted vegetation in the summer by drawing the water all the way down. Designing new ponds to have gradually sloping edges in isolated shallow areas will facilitate growth of aquatic vegetation, whereas steep drop-offs inhibit such growth.
Snag retention and proper placement of artificial nesting structures can increase your population of resident southern duck species like wood ducks and black bellied whistling ducks. See my post of proper placement of nest boxes prior to deploying them on your land, because improper placement can inadvertently decrease local populations.
Pond Size Matters to Migrating Waterfowl
Lastly, the size of your water body and the time committed to management are deciding factors in how many ducks your land will attract. Resist the urge to harvest birds at every opportunity. Doing so will help retain more birds for longer periods. Choose a specific time frame for harvests or let your land go un-hunted every other year to help attract more waterfowl. Many birds that survive the barrage of hunting pressure during their journey will remember the “haven” they survived on the previous year and they will bring their buddies with them!
Information on Federal wetland conservation incentives can be found on the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) website. Additional resources can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
For questions or comments on your own experience with waterfowl on your pond feel free to contact me at [email protected] and thank you for your interest in waterfowl management!
Ducks & Carp together?
I’m planning on turning a ravine into a 6-8 foot deep 1/4 to 1/3 acre-sized pond, and I’d like it to serve many purposes in the permaculture design. I’d like it to reflect sunlight towards the food forest on a hill adjacent to it, and keep the water table high. I’d like to grow aquatic plants like Sweet Flag and Wapato. And I’d like to stock it with a functional mini-ecosystem of snails, crayfish, frogs, minnows, bluegills, and finally some carp. And because everybody knows they’re great for slug control, I’d like to keep some ducks as well, giving them somewhere to forage for the majority of the year when they aren’t needed for slug patrols, and then harvesting a few for meat in the autumn.
Here’s what I need to figure out, and I’d love to hear from those with firsthand knowledge:
-Ducks are well known for their ability to fill up a pond with feces. How might their presence ruin things for the minnows, bluegills, and the carp? Would they benefit from each others presence, or would the fish simply die out in murky water?
-What permie-friendly, closed-loop options are available to keep the water clean? I’ve heard barley straw is used to kill pond algae, are there any plant-based methods for dealing with the duck muck? I know it’s supposed to make excellent fertilizer, what would you use to collect it? Are there any good hand skimming tools you use every couple days to collect it, or is that just an exercise in futility? I’d hate to simply have to pump the water and keep new water flowing in, that’s very un-permie, and I’d mostly like to keep the pond full by collecting snowmelt and rain runoff via swales.
-For a 1/4 or 1/3 acre pond, how many adult ducks would make for a stable population in balance with a fish population? How many ducklings? I plan on establishing a rich and diverse polyculture of aquatic plants around the edges and growing in the pond itself, and I’d like it to be enough to sustain them without them destroying everything. The problem is unlike rotational chicken paddocks, you can’t really subdivide a pond.
-I plan on letting the carp reach a good size before getting any ducks. When it comes to the subsequent generations, however, will the ducks pretty much massacre them, or will they let enough of the fry grow to appreciable size?
How Big Does a Pond Have to Be for Ducks?
Ducks adore ponds of any size.
From rivers to lakes, oceans to swamps, ducks depend on different bodies of water for food, nesting sites and safety. Natural and man-made ponds are also popular havens for ducks. The size of the pond will largely be determined by the needs and number of ducks.
Ducks and Water
Ducks are waterfowl, perfectly adapted to the aquatic life. Webbed feet, waterproof feathers and the ability to dive serve them well in their watery worlds. Ducks need water deep enough to submerge their heads, as they must flush their nostrils while eating and regularly rinse their eyes. Some duck species must have deep water to mate. Ducks do not require water for bathing, but it will aid them in preening their feathers and they most certainly enjoy it. Few creatures are happier than a duck in water.
The size of a duck pond should be based on its intended uses. Wild ducks will cover a body of water while migrating but prefer isolation when breeding. Domestic ducks raised in a farmyard can be kept at a higher density throughout the year if the water is kept clean.
Artificial Pond Size
Suitable man-made ponds come in a wide variety, from large excavated water holes to simple plastic kiddie pools. The “International Journal of Laboratory Animal Science and Welfare” recommends that ducks kept in captivity be provided with 6 to 9 square feet of pond area per bird. Container ponds that do not have a filter or vegetation should be emptied and refilled daily to prevent the water from becoming filthy.
Wildlife Pond Size
A pond intended to attract wild ducks and harbor other wildlife should be relatively shallow (up to 4 feet deep) and be shaped to maximize the amount of edge. Plants that provide food and cover include cattails, bulrushes and pondweed. “Managing Michigan Wildlife: A Landowners Guide” advises that ponds should be at least 60 feet wide to reduce the risk of predation on ducks. To support a single duck family (an adult pair and their ducklings), a pond needs to be at least one acre in size.
Permaculture writer Jonathon Engels shows how duck ponds can benefit both your water-loving fowl and the surrounding ecosystem.
In permaculture design, we are constantly in search of ways to make things function on multiple levels. We like to have waste streams—gray water, kitchen scraps, spoiled animal bedding—cycle productively through our holistic systems, providing solutions rather than creating problems. The ultimate ambition is that everything we put on a homestead or in a backyard, from a tree to a patio to a chicken coop/greenhouse, realizes its potential to cooperate fruitfully with other elements there. Duck ponds are no different.
For example, the article “Permaculture and Chickens: Get More Function from Your Fowl” explains stacking functions via how chickens can fulfill many roles beyond meat and egg production. They can help with compost, pest control, weeding, and even fueling a house. It’s up to us, as designers, the purveyors of our plots, to utilize this potential. If we recognize that our garden beds need to be cleared of weed seeds and ground-dwelling pests, and that chickens will lightly till and fertilize the soil in search of these things, and that the protein-rich diet of seeds and bugs for the chicken produces better eggs, we can schedule our chickens for garden clean-up in the fall and garden prep in the spring. It’s free labor and fertilizer from the birds and free feed from the garden. That’s stacking functions.
1897 engraving. (Getty images.)
Assessing a Duck Pond
Ponds are to ducks what dust baths are to chickens: necessary for feather preening, parasite prevention, and simple pleasure. The unfortunate part of a duck pond is that the ducks don’t hesitate to poop where they preen. The water quickly gets fouled and thus requires frequent changing, or it will become an unhealthy place for the ducks. Good design requires that we ask ourselves what else could we use the pond for and how we can do something useful with the waste water it produces.
Naturally, there are many productive ways to use a little pond, especially one with plenty of duck manure.
Irrigation, aka Fertigation
Duck ponds are ideal for irrigation, or “fertigation”. Fertigation combines both the standard delivery of water we find in irrigation with the bonus of fertility. A duck pond full of water and duck manure is exactly the right blend for fertigating. We can create a draining system that puts manured water into garden beds to feed plants or into contour swales (water harvesting trenches) to feed trees, and it’ll work like manure tea for the garden while cleaning out the duck pond. We can use the muck from the bottom of the pond for garden beds or compost piles.
Fish Cultivation and Biofilters
With ponds that are a half-acre or larger, you can also raise edible fish such as carp or catfish. Because they are typically bottom feeders, these fish will consume duck manure and help filter the water. Non-edible fish like the western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) can also cohabitate with your ducks and help reduce the bug population that will naturally use your pond.
These larger ponds (often already established on many farmsteads) tend to maintain themselves. Smaller ponds typically need some help. If you don’t want to constantly be draining your duck pond, you might want to investigate using a cyclical biofilter system that includes a separate reedbed and fish pond. There is an initial outlay of about $2000 to set up this kind of pond, but once established, they function with pretty minimal maintenance.
Edible/Useful Water Plants
If you decide that you are fine with routinely draining your pond, or cycling the water, you still might want to consider adding plants that both you and the ducks will enjoy eating. You fence off certain areas to limit duck access, and cultivate edible plants such as duckweed, lotus, and watercress. Other plants can help a great deal with absorbing nitrogen loads (duck manure) the birds leave in the water. Reeds and sedges (also edible) would clean the water and help to stabilize the banks of the pond, and willow, cherry, elderberry, and bamboo are all productive possibilities for growing near the pond.
While the main point of building a duck pond is that ducks have a place to frolic, the fact of building such a water feature is that, where the ducks will swim, wildlife will visit them. A duck pond will bring a host of beneficial wildlife to the yard. Frogs and toads will sing happily as they gobble up mosquitoes and pests. Dragonflies, bees, butterflies, and birds will put on aerial shows as they come in for a drink and snack. Small fish will undoubtedly find a way into the scene, also helping to control mosquitoes. Herons will be attracted by the frogs and toads. To make the most of this wildlife refuge, it’s a good idea to include some rockeries, shallows, and plant-life for the animals to enjoy. In turn, they’ll provide entertainment, pest control services, music, pollination, biodiversity, and much more.
Ducks as Pest Control
With the introduction of ducks and the accompanying wildlife in the pond, pest problems and mosquitoes will lessen. All of these animals feed on larvae, bugs, and other problematic guests. While many people fear that adding ducks to the backyard or garden would invite problems, they would actually help eliminate pests, particularly in the garden. Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture, famously said in response to a question about controlling slugs in the garden: “You don’t have slug problem, you have a duck deficiency.” Ducks will eradicate slugs and snails in well-established gardens, and unlike chickens, if they are monitored, they’ll leave the plants alone.
“Safe” House for Ducks
Another nice aspect of a sizeable duck pond is that it has room for a floating (or stilted) duck house. The benefit of sticking a duck house, or even just a floating island, in the middle of the pond rather than on the edge is that it helps the birds evade would-be predators at night. And, in doing so, there is no need to fret over locking gates and mending fences. The downside to a floating duck house, however, is harvesting the eggs from it. It might pay to plan some kind of way of pulling the house/island to shore for quick egg retrieval. Unfortunately, some predators, like racoons and minks, are known to swim for their prey.
Though permaculture designs often revolve around practical functions, don’t forget that recreation and simple pleasure (for you and the ducks) is a valid function. Ponds are just a beautiful feature for backyards so it’s logical to put the duck pond somewhere it can be enjoyed by people and critters alike. Adjoined to a duck pond could be a bench or small patio where an evening cocktail, conversation, and some idle time makes the pond as enjoyable for humans as it is for the ducks.
Duck ponds, or koi ponds or any ponds, have the potential to be so much more than just a hole full of water. For those of us looking to live efficiently and sustainably, we can make the most of our designs and desires when we explore the many ways they might function. In the end, we benefit, as does the world around us. The ducks will be none the wiser.
Jonathon Engels is a traveler, writer, and vegan gardener. Born and raised in Louisiana, he’s lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in between. His interests include permaculture, cooking, and music. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.
Planting Quality Food Plots for Ducks and Geese Most people don’t immediately think of waterfowl when they hear the words, “food plot.” They’re more likely to think of whitetails or turkeys feasting in a lush clover field.However, ducks and geese benefit from food plots in much the same way. Increasing the “groceries” on your property will attract waterfowl during the hunting season, but also provide a food source to get them off to a good start for fall migration. With wetlands disappearing across the nation at record paces, the birds need all the help we can give them. Excellent waterfowl food plot seed options include millet, milo, corn, wild rice, sago pondweed, wild celery, and smartweed.All you really need to start a new waterfowl plot is a pond, seasonally flooded depression in a field, beaver swamp, impoundment, etc. You need to be able to access water in the fall to flood your plot. The trick for some food plot species (e.g., millet, milo, corn) is to be able to remove much of the water in the summer. This is important because you need to be able to plant seeds on a good soil surface and let the plants establish a root system before re-flooding the field to give access to the birds. You can accomplish this by pumping the water out or removing a beaver dam to naturally let it flow away from your site. However, it may make more sense to install a culvert if you plan to manage the plot for many years to come. It will be much easier to add or remove stop logs to manage the water level this way. Check your state’s regulations before tampering with natural wetlands or beaver ponds that flow into streams or rivers, as there could be legal ramifications. Corn is certainly attractive to ducks and geese alike, as many waterfowlers know from hunting flooded fields. But it can be a little pricey to plant when you add up fertilizer and equipment costs. However, millet is cheap, generally has a shorter time to maturity than corn, and can be planted with a hand or ATV spreader on moist soils, giving it certain advantages. Milo is somewhere between corn and millet in terms of planting and conditions, and ducks love it just as much. Speaking of site conditions, several types of millet grow well in wet conditions, while corn and milo require slightly drier soils. Most native waterfowl food plot species (e.g., wild rice, sago pondweed, wild celery, smartweed) should be planted right into standing water or in very close proximity. The benefit of planting these species is that they will generally be more adapted to your local conditions and may be able to thrive with little ongoing maintenance. Smartweed produces small seeds that waterfowl species consume, and is best planted in moist (not flooded) soils, so target pond edges and mud flats that will eventually be flooded during hunting season. Wild rice produces grain that persists in flooded conditions, and grows well in shallow water (i.e., 1 to 3 feet). Sago pondweed provides nutlets that ducks absolutely devour and can grow in similar water depths as rice. Wild celery produces buds that large diving ducks seem to prefer, and actually grows in waters as deep as 3 to 9 feet. Save this one for the deepest parts of your pond. One good way to get the benefits of both approaches is to plant the native water-loving species in the deepest parts of your pond or impoundment. Then dewater the pond enough to plant the fringes with the corn, milo, or millet. You can replicate a shallow lake situation and attract divers, dabblers, and geese alike. To recap, plant these food plot seeds from driest conditions to deepest water: corn, milo, millet, smartweed, wild rice, sago pondweed, and wild celery. Though not a food plot species, per se, you can also add freshwater shrimp (scuds) to your ponds. Many waterfowl species feed on invertebrates like these, which provide a great source of protein. If your pond has fairly clean water and enough depth, shrimp can persist from year to year and provide good forage year-round. In summary, ducks and geese will benefit from food plots just as much as a deer, turkey, or pheasant would. They provide vital nutrition during fall migration, and attract waterfowl to your property to give you more hunting opportunities. Given the choice between a pond with a bountiful smorgasbord and a regular old beaver pond, which do you think would be more popular? Don’t leave the outcome of your hunt up to chance. Do your part to help preserve waterfowl populations and start a legacy on your property.
Duck Food Plots
Wildlifeseeds.com- An Informational Website From Seedland.com
FOOD PLOTS FOR DUCKS
Ducks are migratory and have large and extensive ranges covering continents from feeding sites for winter and summer habitats. Habitat acreage can cover five to twenty acres depending upon how large the water site is.
Wildlifeseeds.com – Duck Food Plots
FOOD PLOT SEEDS FOR DUCKS AND HOW TO USE THEM
Mossy Oak Biologic Guides Choice
Ducks will be attracted to the more open landing sites on and in the water. Feeding areas have to incorporate the water edges and adjacent dryer land. A diverse range of food sources can be offered in site preparation. Providing food plots sources for ducks are more labor intensive because of the added work to supply water for flooding and draining. It is also more labor intensive than most other sites because lands must be used that can be flooded and drained according to the planting season.
Special grasses, tuberous plants, millets, and reeds need to be planted on the dryer land and when almost mature then flooded to attract ducks during their migration. Some seeds have harder seed coats which prevent them from molding until they have a chance to germinate and mature. Side strip planting of grains such as corn and millets adjacent to water sources can help to attract them. Dwarf early corn, millets, tuberous plants that grow in the water.
Rice is also a popular food plot seed planting for ducks. Ducks love rice and it will grow in wet areas or even flooded areas.
Wildlifeseeds.com – Everything You Need For Duck Food Plots At Seedland.com
Facts About Ducks & Their Environment
Ducks are as varied as the habitats they frequent ; being by and large a migratory species this leads to many different diet needs and habitats that may vary. But there is one constant and that is they all need water to survive. For every water habitat there is a species of duck that has developed over time and though the habitats are similar there are noted differences in each species. From coloration, bill shape and region to personalities differences the duck enthusiast has much to learn.
For many years duck populations were on the decrease as more and more habitat and climatic droughts took their toll, man made disasters like oil spills and pollution had and still have a heavy impact on migratory species. Conservation agencies and renewed interest in saving and protecting the environment has helped to renew populations once almost decimated. Without people on the original lands the native grasses, trees, millets, and vegetative and non-vegetative resources were readily available to millions of birds. Of course the Indians had already been hunting them for hundreds of years before Europeans ever thought to cross the ocean and with their arrival the large farms were planted to provide grain and crops for his family and livestock.
This event led to the the migrations starting to depend on the field stands left after harvesting. Good for the ducks and good for the farmers who hunted this extra food source. But today many of the big farms are gone and the lands taken over by communities not suited for living with the wild population. Lands are drained, “unsightly, mosquito infested swamps” are pushed over, dried out and remade for our comfort. Loss of habitat and the natural food sources put a strain of the duck populations and helped in the decrease the number of eggs laid. Along with that wet area went a vast reserve of native growth needed for food, safety, mating, nesting and predator free areas.
Food Plots to Plant for Ducks
More and more organizations and individuals are helping to keep and return some of the habitats for ducks and other water fowl species by planting food plots and letting the land return to some of the wilderness. Food plots are planted by many hunters and preservationists alike hoping to return to nature some small amount of habitat that has been lost and a place to visit and watch these beautiful birds. In good habitat conditions ducks will actually lay more eggs and increase their population substantially. Native plant species are being encouraged to grow and are being planted in many areas to return the land to a more “natural” setting.
Add to the food plots with corn, millets for dry land, sorghums, black sunflower seeds and any other grains that do well in your region. When the plants ( such as corn) have matured and dried cut or push over to the ground ducks have better access to the seeds. Ducks will also eat the seeds from deer vetch and buckwheat.
Wildlifeseeds.com – Buy Food Plot Seed For Waterfowl At Seedland.com
40 lb. PENNINGTON Duck Mix For Food Plots
Contains a mixture of Japanese Millet, White Proso Millet, Buckwheat, Penngrain. DR Grain Sorghum. Matures in 60-90 days.
50% – Japanese Millet
25% – White Proso Millet
10% – Buckwheat
10% – Sorghum
(Content % or seed types subject to change)
Plant Food Plot Seed near water sources that attract migratory birds. Plant along lakes, beaver ponds and swamp areas inhabited by ducks or used by ducks during their migratory season. Best planted in sites that are prone to seasonal flooding or can be flooded manually when plants have matured. These seeds have hard coats and will not mold in the wet sites and should be left undisturbed to germinate and will mature in 60 – 90 days. This mix can be planted early spring or early fall. Regular yearly plantings are best to create a habitat feeding pattern and help insure the yearly health of the returning waterfowl.
SEED RATE FOR DUCK FOOD PLOT SEED:
Plant at the rate of 1lb. per 1000 sq. ft. or 25-50 lb. per acre
Matures – 60-90 days
Broadcast rates are higher than drilled.
BUY FOOD PLOT SEED FOR DUCKS
DUCK SEED MIXTURE
Wildlifeseeds.com – Buy Food Plot Seed For Waterfowl At Seedland.com
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To have the best areas for hunting, fishing or just to enjoy the plain soul relaxing pleasure of observing wildlife; all that is necessary is to start a growth of their favorite foods. Provide food, cover and a rest haven for wildlife and they will do the rest. You will soon have wildlife in abundance. When ducks, geese or other wildlife stop on your waters or land and find little or no food, they go on their way in search of better feeding grounds. However, if they find plenty of their natural foods you can’t keep them away. Following are many suggestions for food plots to keep the wildlife coming to your area.
Duck marsh in Michigan build 2001 by Paul Kester
Planting of natural foods is conservation in the highest degree. It provides both food and cover essential to the existence of wildlife. Plant the natural foods that will coax them to stop on your property. Duck foods planted in the spring will grow and produce food for ducks in the fall. Plant several kinds of food and the waterfowl will stay longer as they like variety.
During our years of specializing in the development of more attractive feeding and breeding grounds for waterfowl, fish, game birds; we have studied the habits and haunts of wildlife. We have examined the contents of thousands of stomachs to determine their principal foods and studied the propagation of these natural foods.
Duck Marsh Built by Kester’s Nursery 1985
When Wild Ducks stop on your waters and find little or no food, their go on there way in search of better feeding grounds. But if they find plenty of their favorite natural foods growing there, ducks will be more inclined to stay. To have the best Duck hunting all that is necessary is to start a growth of their favorite foods. Once you have a growth of aquatic plants established in your waters, they will be permanent and reproduce for years to follow. Natural food that grow in and about your waters provide for the waterfowl not only during the hunting season, but before and after the season. They support the Waterfowl during their Spring and Fall migration as well as provide desirable breeding areas.
Duck Marsh in Wisconsin Built by Paul Kester in 1992
Cover-type plants are often over looked when most talk about improving wildlife habitat. It is essential to provide some cover for wildlife to give them a place to feel safe and hide. To sustain quality marsh area, ornamental plants are not just pretty to look at but are beneficial to wildlife. Many ornamentals will attract insects that are eaten wildlife. Many of these plants have seeds that are liked by puddle ducks but do not produce an over abundance of seed.
Aquatic Plants work…just ask these dead Ducks.
- Species: Some ducks are specialized for particular types of food, such as mergansers with narrow, toothed bills that eat primarily fish. Ducks with spatulate-shaped bills, such as the northern shoveler, eat more algae and aquatic insects because their bills can filter those foods from the water more efficiently.
- Season: Many ducks eat mostly insects in spring and summer when insects are most plentiful and provide the best nutrition for growing ducklings. When the seasons change and insects aren’t as common, however, ducks will switch their diet to more easily available foods. A duck’s diet may vary the most in winter when they take advantage of any possible food source.
- Range: Where a duck’s overall range occurs impacts its diet. Ducks that stay in fields or grassland areas eat more grains and grasses, while ducks that live along oceanic shorelines will eat more fish, algae, and crustaceans. When a duck’s range changes during migration, its diet will change as well. If food is scarce, a duck’s range may change accordingly to find more abundant food sources.
- Habitat: Where a bird lives affects the available food that will make up the majority of its diet. Ducks that prefer shady marsh habitats will eat more amphibians and small fish. Ducks, even of the same species, that stay in more open parks and grassy areas are more likely to eat grasses, weeds, and grain. Ducks that stay in forested areas, such as the wood duck, eat a lot of nuts and fruits.
- Feeding style: How a duck feeds has a large impact on its diet. Dabbling ducks feed in shallow water and are more likely to have a diet with more aquatic plants and insects. Diving ducks, on the other hand, feed deeper in the water and typically eat more fish or crustaceans.
Ducks are omnivorous birds which means they will eat a mixture of both plants and other animals.
Different species of ducks will eat different types of foodstuffs. For example mergansers, that have serrated, hooked bills, eat a diet primarily made up of fish, whereas dabbling ducks such as mallards or pintails will graze on aquatic plants and vegetation that they dive headfirst below the surface of the water to find.
In the wild, a duck’s diet will also vary depending on its habitat. So ducks that live near wetlands will eat amphibians such as frogs, molluscs and small fish, while ducks that live near parks and grasslands will eat seeds, grains and grasses.
As well as the foods mentioned above wild ducks will also eat fish eggs, small crustaceans, algae, worms, and insects.
To aid their digestion ducks will eat sand, gravel and other sources of grit, which helps them grind their food in their gizzards.
However, ducks are foragers and when living in close proximity to humans will eat almost all types of food they can find. They will also eat food that is specifically fed to them and although many people associate feeding bread to ducks this is one of the worst foods they can eat as it has little nutritious value to them and can actually be harmful.
You can find out more about they types of food that are suitable to feed to ducks here.
I see Ducks all the time, they certainly like to eat duck seed provided by casual visitors around the nature reserve I visit. I see them much of the time on the water too as they ‘ducking’ down into the water searching for stuff …something to eat I guess …but what?
Yes! what!? are they searching for Fish? Let’s explore this further. Here’s the quick take away answer…
Do Ducks Eat Fish? Yes, ducks do eat fish. Ducks are omnivorous birds, who eat a wide variety of food for nourishment and health. A duck’s diet actually consists of mostly small fish. Ducks consume not only fish but also their eggs. Diving ducks feed deeper in the water and typically eat more fish or crustaceans.
In fact, some species of duck such as mergansers with narrow, toothed bills, primarily eat fish. Just about all species of Ducks will include fish as part of their normal diet.
Birds float in water most of the time and being omnivorous, ducks constantly forage for small meals and snacks and can eat just about anything that fits into their mouth. Since ducks spend the majority of their time in the water, they eat a plethora of aquatic creatures.
How big a fish can a duck catch?
the size of the fish that a duck can sensibly eat of course depends on the size of the Duck. This means that smaller ducks such as mallards are limited to small fish like guppies, graylings, and minnows.
Larger Ducks are able to catch larger fish like brown trout and chub. Remember, a duck is unable to cut sufficiently through its prey so it will need to swallow whole, but a Duck will know the size of the prey it can efficiently catch and eat.
What else can Ducks eat?
Here’s a list of the types of things that most Duck varieties can safely eat…
- Aquatic plants.
- Insects (even bees)
- Frogs (and Tadpole)
- Small Crabs
- Other small crustaceans
- Rice (Cooked/Uncooked)
So, yes, Ducks do eat fish. Although ducks can eat almost anything, their diet depends on the type of species, habitat, seasons and their feeding style.
For ducks, fish satisfy their protein and acid requirements which they need for healthy growth, strength, development of muscles, successful breeding and more.
Diving ducks eat more fish than dabbling ducks. They dive down and swim in the water to chase fish and frogs. Wild ducks as well as domestic ducks like Pekins and Cayuga, love to eat fish and other small aquatic animals and plants.
Mergansers are streamlined ducks that float gracefully on the water. They’re the only types of ducks that eat fish regularly and not just a little bit but a large amount of fish every day. They have narrow shaped bills that contain teeth. This type of bill makes it easier for the mergansers to eat fish.
Species of mergansers duck include hooded duck, common mergansers duck, and red-breasted mergansers. The males generally have clean white bodies, dark green heads, and slender red bills.
Hooded Merganser. Image: Ken Billington
Female mergansers are elegant with gray bodies, the short crest on cinnamon heads. Common mergansers mostly eat fish along with other aquatic invertebrates such as mollusks and crustaceans. Mergansers dive into deeper waters where fish are schooling, to hunt for food.
During winter, they’re heavy feeding on fish continues. Feeding on fish including salmon, trout, eels, suckers, sculpin, shad, sunfish, chub, minnows, sticklebacks and more.
The young ones eat mostly invertebrates for the first 12 days. After about 12 days they switch to eating fish just like parent ducks. Other species of ducks that eat fish are Muscovy ducks, diving ducks and more.
Wild ducks survive in the wilderness and are found mainly living near water sources. Wild ducks eat fish, worms, and frogs found in or around water. Diving ducks like to include more fish in their diet, so they travel deep into the water to catch their meals.
Fish is low-fat and high-quality protein which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and many other proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Since fish are full of beneficial proteins vitamins and minerals, they provide energy which lasts a long time. The high calcium content also helps female ducks to lay eggs with a stronger shell.
Here are some other Duck related fish-eating questions
Do ducks catch fish?
Yes, Ducks are good at catching fish, provided the fish is within reach of its neck and its bill, then a duck will be fast enough to catch the fish. Of course, the fish has to be a reasonable size that the Duck can cope with.
Do ducks eat mosquitofish?
Yes is the short answer to this, so if you have Mosquito Fish introduced into your pond or pool, then be sure not to let Ducks into your yard.
Do ducks eat fish in a pond?
Absolutely ducks do eat fish kept in Ponds. In fact, as lovely as it might sound having ducks in and around your pond, they can often bring diseases with them, not to mention lots of pollutants of your pond water. Use netting to discourage Ducks from entering your Pond.
What type of fish do mallard ducks eat?
Mallard Ducks are the same as other species of Ducks, they will eat fish in your pond or in freshwater sources. Along with all the other menu items other Ducks eat.
Do ducks scare fish away?
If you’re looking to fish near a place that is frequented by Ducks, then expect that when ducks arrive in the area your chance of catching will go down. The presence of ducks does scare fish away within the immediate vicinity.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this article about Ducks eating fish. So YES they do eat fish, amongst eating lots of other things. So I’ll leave you with this video which confirms what we’ve been talking about as it shows Ducks – eating Fish.