A duck swimming around fish.

Do Ducks Eat Fish? Exploring the Dietary Habits of Ducks!

Do ducks eat fish? This is a common question among bird enthusiasts and those who are curious about the eating habits of these feathered creatures. The answer is yes, ducks do eat fish, but the type of fish they consume depends on the species of the duck.

Ducks are omnivorous birds, which means they eat a variety of food for nourishment and health.

Their diet consists of both plant and animal matter, including fish, shellfish, amphibians, insects, invertebrates, plants, fruits, berries, grains, seeds, nuts, algae, and even bread.

Diving ducks feed deeper in the water and typically eat more fish or crustaceans, while other species of ducks may rely more on vegetation and insects.

Ducks’ Diet

Ducks are known to be omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, which means they eat both plant and animal matter.

Their diet varies depending on the species of duck, the season, and the availability of food sources. In this section, we will discuss what ducks eat, including whether they eat fish.

What Do Ducks Eat?

Dabbling and diving ducks are the two main types of ducks. Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of the water or on land, while diving ducks feed underwater. Both types of ducks eat a variety of foods, including:

  • Aquatic plants such as duckweed, water lilies, and cattails
  • Invertebrates such as insects, clams, snails, and crustaceans
  • Fish, amphibians, and reptiles
  • Seeds, grains, and other plant matter

Ducks also eat fruits such as grapes, bananas, plums, watermelon, pears, peaches, and pumpkin. They are known to be opportunistic feeders, so they will eat almost anything they find.

Do Ducks Really Eat Fish?

Yes, ducks do eat fish. Diving ducks are more likely to eat fish than dabbling ducks because they can dive deeper into the water. Some species of ducks, such as mergansers and goldeneyes, are known to eat fish regularly.

Other species of ducks, such as mallards and wood ducks, may eat fish occasionally. Fish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and calcium.

However, ducks do not rely solely on fish for their diet. They eat a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, ducks are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, and their diet consists of both plant and animal matter. While some species of ducks eat fish regularly, others may eat fish occasionally.

Ducks eat a variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, seeds, grains, and fruits.

A mallard drake standing on a floating piece of metal.
Photo by Daniel Bilcliff: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-a-mallard-duck-13109056/

Feeding Habits

Ducks are omnivorous creatures with diverse dietary preferences. They feed on aquatic plants, grasses, insects, worms, small mollusks, and small amphibians.

Sometimes, they also prey on fish and fish eggs. In this section, we will explore the feeding habits of ducks during different seasons and their preferences.

Breeding Season

During the breeding season, ducks require a high protein diet to support egg production and the growth of their young ones. They prefer to consume insects, snails, and other invertebrates that are rich in protein.

You can provide mealworms, crickets, and earthworms to the ducks to supplement their diet during the breeding season.


Ducks migrate to different regions during the winter season in search of food. They prefer to feed on grains, seeds, and aquatic plants during migration. You can offer cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seeds to attract ducks to your backyard during migration.

Harmful Insects

Ducks are susceptible to various harmful insects that can cause diseases and infections. They can contract botulism from eating maggots that thrive in decaying organic matter. You can prevent botulism by keeping the feeding areas clean and dry.

Ducks can also contract avian influenza by consuming insects that are infected with the virus. You can protect ducks from avian influenza by using insecticides that are safe for birds.

Artificial Pesticides

Artificial pesticides can be harmful to ducks, as they can consume insects that have been exposed to these chemicals.

You can use natural pest control methods such as neem oil, garlic spray, and diatomaceous earth to keep pests at bay. These methods are safe for ducks and will not harm them.

In conclusion, ducks have a varied diet and prefer to consume different types of food during different seasons.

You can provide a healthy and balanced diet to ducks by offering a variety of food sources that are rich in protein, grains, and seeds.

By taking care of their feeding habits, you can attract ducks to your backyard and enjoy their presence.

What Ducks Eat in the Wild

Ducks are omnivorous birds that feed on both plant and animal matter. Their diet varies depending on their species and their habitat. Here are some of the aquatic creatures, birds, and other animals that ducks eat in the wild.

Aquatic Creatures

Ducks eat a wide variety of aquatic creatures, including mussels, stones, sand, and many types of fish. Some of the fish that ducks eat include trout, salmon, shad, sticklebacks, suckers, minnows, chub, sunfish, and eels. Ducks also consume fish eggs and roe.


Ducks are known to eat other birds, including their eggs and young. They will also eat insects that they find on the feathers of other birds.


Ducks will eat other ducks, especially during the winter months when food is scarce. They will also eat the eggs and young of other ducks.


Mergansers are a type of duck that specializes in eating fish. They have long, narrow bills with serrated edges that help them catch and hold onto fish. Common mergansers are known to eat a wide variety of fish, including trout, salmon, shad, sticklebacks, and minnows.

Toothed Bills

Some ducks, such as the northern shoveler and the mallard, have tooth-like projections on the edges of their bills that help them filter small aquatic creatures out of the water.


Ducks will eat worms that they find in the soil near bodies of water. They will also eat insects and other small creatures that they find in the soil.

Lizards and Newts

Ducks will eat small lizards and newts that they find near bodies of water. They will also eat other small amphibians, such as frogs and toads.

Small Crabs

Some species of ducks, such as the American black duck, will eat small crabs that they find in tidal marshes and other coastal habitats.

In conclusion, ducks have a varied diet that includes a wide range of plant and animal matter. They are opportunistic feeders that will eat whatever is available to them in their habitat.

A Wood Duck standng on a wooden fence post.
Image by Alex from Pixabay

Domestic Ducks

Domestic ducks are a common sight on farms and in backyard ponds. They are a type of waterfowl that belong to the Anseriformes family, which also includes geese and swans. Domestic ducks are bred for their meat, eggs, and feathers.

Domestic Duck Breeds

There are many different breeds of domestic ducks, each with their own unique characteristics. Some popular breeds include the Pekin, Rouen, and Muscovy. Domestic ducks can live up to 10 years, but their lifespan varies depending on the breed and their living conditions.

Anseriformes Family

Domestic ducks are part of the Anseriformes family, which includes over 150 species of waterfowl. This family also includes geese and swans. Anseriformes are known for their webbed feet, which help them swim in water.


Domestic ducks are foragers and will eat a variety of foods, including vegetation, insects, and small animals. They have a gizzard, which is a muscular organ that helps them digest tough foods like seeds and insects.

Beaks and Bills

Ducks have beaks, or bills, that are designed for different types of food. Some ducks, like scaup and eider, have bills with lamellae, which are small, comb-like structures that help them filter small organisms like mussels and other mollusks from the water.

Other ducks, like the common merganser, have bills with serrated edges that help them catch fish.


Ducks have a unique digestive system that allows them to extract nutrients from their food. They have a gizzard that grinds up tough food, and their bills have sieves that filter out food particles.

Ducks also swallow small stones and sand, which help them break down food in their gizzard.


Domestic ducks are part of the waterfowl family, which includes ducks, geese, and swans. They are adapted to living in and around water, and their feathers are coated in oil that helps them repel water. Ducks are also able to float in water due to their buoyant bodies.

In conclusion, domestic ducks are a type of waterfowl that are bred for their meat, eggs, and feathers. They are foragers and will eat a variety of foods, including vegetation, insects, and small animals.

Ducks have unique beaks and bills that are designed for different types of food, and their digestive system allows them to extract nutrients from their food.

Two ducks together in the water.
Photo by Massimo Adami on Unsplash

Ducks and Fish

Do Ducks Eat Fish?

Yes, ducks eat fish. They are omnivorous birds that have a diverse diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. While not all duck species eat fish, many of them do.

Diving ducks, such as mergansers and scaups, are known to feed on fish and crustaceans that they catch by diving underwater.

Mallards and other dabbling ducks may also eat small fish, but they tend to feed more on plant matter. Ducks have specialized bills that help them catch and eat fish.

Their bills are flat and wide, which allows them to filter small aquatic organisms from the water. They also have serrated edges on their bills that help them grip and hold onto slippery fish.

What Happens When Ducks Eat Fish?

When ducks eat fish, the protein and omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish can provide important nutrients for their health. However, eating too much fish can also have negative consequences.

Fish that are contaminated with pollutants, such as mercury or PCBs, can accumulate in a duck’s body and cause health problems.

Additionally, eating fish that are too large or difficult to swallow can cause choking or other digestive issues.

It’s important to note that feeding ducks human food, including bread, is not a healthy or natural diet for them. Instead, ducks should be allowed to forage for their own food in their natural habitat.

This may include aquatic life such as fish, freshwater plants and algae, and bugs. Ducks may also scavenge for food, such as seeds and roots, on land.

In their natural habitat, ducks may encounter predators such as pike, walleye, bass, and catfish. They are also curious creatures that may bob in the water to investigate their surroundings.

Overall, while ducks do eat fish, their diet is diverse and varied, and they have adapted to eat a wide range of foods in their natural environment.

Three Pekin Ducks in the water.
Photo by Robert Woeger on Unsplash

FAQs: Do Ducks Eat Fish?

Do ducks eat fish?

No, ducks are primarily herbivorous and do not have a natural diet that includes fish. They mainly consume plants, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates found in or near water.

What do ducks eat if not fish?

Ducks primarily feed on a variety of aquatic vegetation, such as algae, pondweeds, and water lilies. They also consume seeds, grains, insects, worms, snails, and other small invertebrates.

Can ducks eat fish food?

While ducks can eat fish food, it is not their natural diet and may not provide them with the necessary nutrients. Fish food is specifically formulated for the nutritional needs of fish, not ducks.

Will ducks eat fish if given the opportunity?

In some cases, ducks may consume small fish if they come across them while foraging. However, this behavior is not typical, and fish are not a significant part of their diet.

Are there any duck species that eat fish?

Although most duck species do not eat fish, some diving duck species, such as mergansers, do incorporate fish into their diet. These diving ducks have specialized bills and hunting techniques to catch and consume fish.

Are ducks attracted to fish in ponds or lakes?

Ducks are generally more attracted to aquatic vegetation, insects, and other small invertebrates rather than fish. They are more likely to feed on plant matter and insects found in and around water.

Can feeding ducks fish be harmful to them?

Feeding ducks fish can disrupt their natural feeding behaviors and may lead to imbalances in their diet. It is best to provide ducks with their natural food sources or specially formulated waterfowl feed.

What should I feed ducks if I encounter them near a fishpond?

If you encounter ducks near a fishpond, it is recommended to offer them suitable duck feed, cracked corn, or other grains. These options align better with their dietary needs and are safer for both the ducks and fish.

Are there any risks to fish populations if ducks eat fish?

Ducks typically have minimal impact on fish populations, since fish are not a significant part of their diet. Other factors, such as water quality, habitat loss, and predation by larger fish or birds, have more significant effects on fish populations.

How can I create a suitable habitat for ducks without affecting fish populations?

To create a suitable habitat for ducks without negatively impacting fish populations, maintain a balanced ecosystem. Provide ample vegetation for cover and nesting, ensure proper water quality, and avoid overstocking fishponds to prevent competition for resources.


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.