Do Ducks Eat Duckweed?
A duck’s diet has quite a wide range, so, do ducks eat duckweed? Yes and no.
Domestic ducks enjoy eating duckweed but wild ones sometimes don’t eat duckweed. Several semi-aquatic bird species consume duckweed. However, there are exceptions.
According to Fairfax County Public Schools, while mallard ducklings start out eating duckweed, and eventually move away from it as they grow older in favor of other items, such as grains and seeds, wood ducks do just the opposite. Their ducklings feed mainly on insects, and only later in life develop a taste for duckweed. Canadian geese are strict herbivores, and include duckweed in their diets along with several other aquatic plants.
Let’s go to look at the aspects of a duck’s inclination to a duckweed diet and what determines its diet in general.
Common duckweed (Lemna minor), also known as lesser duckweed, is any of several reduced floating aquatic plants in the subfamily Lemnoideae of the family Araceae. Duck weeds cover the water surface, having no stems or leaves. They have oval shaped fronds and tentacles. Many animals such as snakes, frogs, use duckweed for shelter.
Duck weeds grow better in ponds that are quiet and nutrient enriched. Their budding is dependent on how much nutrient is available. They don’t like moving water or water swept by wind.
Under ideal conditions one duckweed frond can produce 17,500 “daughters” in just two weeks. This makes it that in few weeks the surface of your pond is covered with duck weeds. It is also considered for biodiesel because it has five times more amount of starch than corn.
I already measured earlier that duck weed also provides shelter for frogs, snakes, fish, insects and crustaceans.
General Duck Feeding and Adaptation
Ducks are omnivorous birds that will eat a wide variety of food. A varied diet provides good nutrition for healthy duckling growth, feather strength, muscle development, breeding success, safe migrations, and more.
Ducks eat a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.
Dabbling ducks (e.g. mallard) feed on the surface of water or on land, or as deep as they can reach. They feed without completely submerging themselves. They have a comb-like structure at the edge of their beak called a pecten. This helps them to strain the water squirting from the side of their beak and trap any food. The pecten can also be used to preen feathers and to hold slippery food items.
Diving ducks and sea ducks can go deep underwater in search of food. Diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks. This helps them easily submerge and at the same time makes it more difficult for them to take off to fly.
A few specialized species such as the mergansers are adapted to catch and swallow large fish.
Some others possess wide flat beak for dredging such as pulling up waterweed, pulling worms and small molluscs out of mud, searching for insect larvae, and bulk jobs such as dredging out, holding, turning head first, and swallowing a squirming frog.
To avoid injury when digging into sediment, the set have no cere, but the nostrils come out through hard horn.
How to Grow Duckweed
You can buy duckweeds from a pet store or harvest it from a pond. You can harvest it by filling your container with some water from the pond you want to harvest the duck weeds from. After which, you then scoop a little amount of duckweed from the pond with your hand and place the duckweed into your container.
Duckweeds multiply very quickly, so, 50-100 pods will be enough to cover your whole pond.
Disinfect the duckweed with potassium permanganate. Just add one teaspoon of this chemical in 12 gallons (45 L) of water. Place the duckweed into the permanganate solution for 30 seconds. You can get Potassium permanganate from your local pharmacy.
Disinfecting the duckweed will make sure that it is free of pests and bacteria.
Fill a tray with freshwater from a pond for best result, but you can also make use of tap water. Add the duckweeds to it
You are to use freshwater because duckweeds are freshwater plants. This is the reason it grows only in ponds and does not grow in sea water. Sea water contains salt and salt water kills duckweed.
Duckweeds thrive better in direct sunlight, so it’s best to place the tray in a place/position where it’ll receive hours of sunlight.
If for any reason there is no sunlight for the duckweeds, you can use fluorescent light bulbs to provide other forms of energy to them. You are advised to place the light bulbs at about 15 inches above the tray. This helps for maximum result. Although, the duckweeds won’t grow well under the light bulbs as they will under sunlight.
Often check the tray a couple of times a day and remove any damaged duck weed. Change the water in the tray and replace with new freshwater at least once every week.
Transfer the duck weeds that have multiplied with a net to the desired pond location. Be sure to transfer to a pond exposed to plenty of sunlight. You can also move your duck weeds to an aquarium but be sure the aquarium lid has a light source attached to it.
Once the duck weed is in your pond or aquarium, it doesn’t require or need more care and maintenance.
The quick and efficient way to scoop out your duck weed is by using a swimming pool net on an extendable aluminum pole. The duck weed can be heavy especially standing further away from where you want to scoop it from.
The closer you move to the area you want to scoop from, the easier and less heavier it is for you. Going close to scoop the duck weed is also a good way to remove any leave that probably might have fallen into the pond from elsewhere.
If you live where there are trees, it is a good idea to put up a barrier such as chicken wire or plastic fencing to keep as many leaves out as possible.
Keep your net as clean as possible each time you make use of it. Remove bits of duck weeds from the net to avoid dying on the net and probably blocking it.
Benefits of Duckweed
Duckweeds are kept for many reasons which include the following:
- Cost effective renewable energy, biofuel
- Water filter
- Mosquito prevention
- Prevents algae growth
- Reduces evaporation on bodies of water
- Virtually free animal feed
Other Foods Ducks Eat
Ducks like I mentioned earlier eat a wide range of different foods and they are constantly foraging for meals and snacks. Other foods ducks regularly eat include:
- Small fish, fish eggs
- Snails, worms, slugs, and mollusks
- Small crustaceans such as crayfish
- Grass, leaves, and weeds
- Algae and aquatic plants and roots
- Frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, and other amphibians
- Aquatic and land insects
- Seeds and grain
- Small berries, fruits, and nuts
In addition to these other nutritious foods, some ducks will still eat sand, gravel, pebbles, and small shells to provide grit that aids their digestion. Grit may also provide trace amounts of critical minerals, such as calcium, as part of an overall healthy, varied diet.
Factors That Affect a Duck’s Diet
There are several factors that can affect a ducks diet. While all ducks will try many different foods that may be available, the particular type of diet is determined by the few following factors:
Some species of ducks are specialized for particular types of food. For example, ducks like mergansers with narrow, toothed bills that eat primarily fish. The northern shoveler has spatulate shaped bills, this bills filters food from water, thereby allowing them to eat more algae and aquatic insects.
Seasons can also affect what ducks eat. Some ducks eat mostly insects during spring and summer. During this season, insects are more plentiful and nutritious for ducklings. When the seasons change and insects are not more available, ducks will change their food to the more available one as at the time. During winter, ducks take advantage of any possible food.
Where a bird lives affects the available food that will make up the majority of its diet. Ducks that live in fields or grassland areas will eat more grains and grasses as this is the more available food to them, while ducks that live along oceanic shorelines will eat more fish, algae, and crustaceans. When a duck’s range changes, it can also affect its diet. Ducks that habits shady marshes will eat more amphibians and small fish. Ducks, staying in open parks and grassy areas too will more likely eat grass and grain. Ducks that inhabit forested areas will eat nuts and fruits.
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.
What Ducks Shouldn’t Eat
In as much as ducks eat a wide variety of food, there are also some foods that are harmful to the ducks health. Such foods are advised to be kept away from ducks mainly for their health benefit. These foods ducks shouldn’t eat include:
- Bread: Bread lacks nutritional value for birds and can be very harmful to them when consumed. Likewise, diets containing bread or bread-like products such as crackers, cookies, donuts, chips, cereal, popcorn, rolls, and similar scraps are not good for ducks since they also cause health problems. Bread causes obesity, malnutrition, and poor development in ducks. Bread in water that ends up not consumed will end up attracting predators such as rats, raccoons, and other mammals that may prey on ducklings or even attack adult ducks.
- Lead: This is another unhealthy part of a duck’s diet, especially, lead sinkers from abandoned fishing line. Foraging ducks may see this as nuts or seeds because they are small and round. This lead compounds can cause toxic effects in the ducks’ body system and the effects can linger for weeks, especially if not noticed and taken care of. Lead can bring about weakness, illness, and sometimes death.
Fishermen should always collect discarded hooks and sinkers and should use appropriately weighted fishing line to minimize breaks that could cause lost sinkers that would tempt hungry ducks.
Ducks eat duckweed a lot, especially the domestic ducks. They also eat other different varieties of food as mentioned above. Birders should work towards understanding what ducks eat as this will help them raise their ducks with the most nutritious food. It will also help them to know what foods to avoid.
You can use an old swimming pool to grow your duckweed. Follow the few steps above on how to successfully grow your duck weed. Everything in this article was carefully put down to give a straight forward explanation on how to grow duck weed and also feed your ducks.