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Wild Animals/To Feed or Not to Feed Mallard Ducks


I have a pair of mallard ducks that has shown up at my birdfeeder. Will black oil sunflower seeds hurt them?

Should I feed them? No one really messes with the other birds I feed, but ducks are very noticeable, and I worry for their safety.

They don't seem to be concerned by my presence.

Will they starve if I don't put food out for them, and let them just get what they find on the ground?

Dear Kathy

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Kimberley Hawthorne ( that whole black oil sunflower seeds are an important source of calcium for ducks. Courtney ( says there are choking risks with seeds and gives alternative food you can use, but generally advises against feeding ducks. Newbyduckmum ( gives the best compromise by suggesting that you only give the sunflower seeds as a specialtreat, rather than every day. She says that ducks have problems with digesting seeds.  If there are too many seeds inside the crop, there will be less space for other foods and this can lead to digestive problems.

Wild mallards should be able to find food for themselves and it is not a good idea to let wild animals become dependent on people to provide food for them. In winter, if food is scarce, you can feed birds, but need to take care that the food won't harm them. Kimberley Hawthorne ( gives advice about the problems with some kinds of bird feed.

It seems that you can occasionally feed small quantities of black oil sunflower seeds to ducks, but it is better to avoid doing this.Hopefully the ducks can obtain calcium from other sources.

I hope this helps

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

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BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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