What to feed ducks?

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 alternatives to bread for ducks.

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

What to feed ducks - best food for duck tested on BBC Inside Out
Ecologist Mike Dilger (l) testing the best foods for ducks on BBC Inside Out with Andrew from Quack Snacks


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 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?!

No, it was as if our diners has been waiting for them, with Quack Snacks being eaten almost as soon as they made contact with the water.

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

We had a good idea that might happen as we’d developed our signature packs of floating swan and duck food in response to many trials of the other foods by our team and website visitors.

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.

We don’t sell duck food in giant bags – they’re no fun to carry around and potentially encourage over-feeding. Quack Snacks are therefore packed in small 40g bags so they fit easily into bags and pockets and help you to only offer small amounts – “Quack Snacks”. Plus, we don’t use plastic packaging!

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

What to feed ducks - best food for ducks picnic basket

Further Reading >