What to feed ducks?

What to feed ducks - best food for ducks picnic basket

With Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust research showing that “a bread-heavy diet could make birds physically weaker”, we joined ecologist, writer and presenter Mike Dilger on location for BBC Inside Out to test some more nutritious food options to feed wild ducks.

All the foods in our test were scattered sparingly over the water of the lake within the Buxton Pavilion Gardens.


We used the dark green outer leaves of Little Gem lettuce, ripped into small bite-size pieces. They floated briefly, enough for a few of the ducks and geese to investigate, but it was only really the Canada Geese who had a nibble – perhaps unsurprising as they’d been grazing on the green grass surrounding the lake moments before.

If trying lettuce yourself, we’d recommend trying the most lightweight leaves in bite-size pieces – a floating snack appears one more likely to at least be sampled.


Peas or sweetcorn are commonly included in lists of duck-friendly foods, so we defrosted some supermarket garden peas to tempt our quacking friends. Alas, they sank right away and only attracted the attention of a couple of long-necked diners.

If using peas, we’d recommend trying them over shallow water – if they’re visible and accessible to dabbling ducks, you may have more success.

Garden Bird Seed

We tried so-called “no mess” garden bird seed, with kibbled maize, sunflower hearts and oats. This also sank right away, gaining little attention from any of our feathered quacking friends.

As with peas or sweetcorn, you may have more success scattering it over shallow water. We wouldn’t recommend scattering it on the ground, as that can entice ducks into harm’s way – see passing dogs chasing them back into the water. Also, what they don’t eat litters the ground and can attract vermin.

Porridge Oats

These just weren’t any porridge oats, they were jumbo porridge oats – selected to be better floaters! Sure enough, the porridge oats floated for long enough to attract the attention of more of our diners than the lettuce, peas or bird seed.

We know from our own earlier tests that supermarket value porridge oats will also be snacked on, albeit their slightly dusty nature does make things a bit messier on a windy day!

Quack Snacks Floating Swan & Duck Food Pellets

Our pellets are specially formulated to provide ducks and swans with essential vitamins and minerals, whilst also floating for long enough for you to enjoy seeing the ducks eat them. You can buy them here from just £3.99 >

However, the wonderful Buxton ducks had now had the chance to sample four foods and with a television camera recording as Mike reached for the Quack Snacks – were we about to be featured on a TV bloopers show instead of Inside Out?!

Well, here’s what Mike had to say about Quack Snacks – and you can see the test as broadcast below:

“These pellets, undoubtedly the winner….the birds are loving them”

Ecologist Mike Dilger (l) testing the best foods for ducks on BBC Inside Out with Andrew from Quack Snacks

Whatever food you choose to take on your duck feeding adventures, please consider avoiding bread, offer only small amounts, scatter food sparingly over the water and do all you can to feed wild ducks responsibly >

And yes, you really can get your hands on some of the winning “as tested on TV” Quack Snacks from just £3.99 here >

Further Reading >

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