Nutrition: When 5-star dining gets too expensive

Mallards feeding courtesy of Nick Perla / Wikimedia Commons
Wild Mallards

Wild Mallards will eat and drink as needed or as available to them. Most Mallards tend to have quite a large appetite. The Mallard is omnivorous, feeding on anything from nuts, fruits, rice, Sweet Corn, and other types of grain, to small fish, snails, worms, and even flies. Mallards will feed both during the day and at night, although during the hunting season, they will likely eat under the cover of darkness and reserve being on higher alert during the daylight hours.


When the Mallards migrate in the spring and fall, a more readily available source of corn and seeds become a target as they fly over numerous farming communities. With their migration to a warmer climate in the fall, food consumption is easier than if the mallards stayed in the colder climate through the winter. Although, if the Mallards are migrating in cold weather with ice and snow present, streams and small springs that provide open water become desirable. They can be seen out looking for worms that so reliably come to the surface after a heavy rain. Mallards are often found congregating in shallow or heavily weeded waters (along with many other species of ducks) searching for snails or other small creatures.

Mallards raised on game farms

Mallards, as do most animals, need plenty of water to stay healthy and grow quickly. For day-old Mallards, 3 gallons of fresh water per day should satisfy about 100 ducklings. As the ducks mature, more water may be necessary, depending on how long the birds are kept on the farm.

The following feed information is based off of different Purina Game Bird feed types considering mallards:

Feed type What age to feed Feed suggested per week (lbs)
Startena 0-6 weeks 6.5 per bird
Finisher 6-14 weeks 12 per bird
Flight Conditioner 6-16 weeks 1.7 per bird
Breeder Laying season 1.8 per bird
Maintenance After 16 weeks 1.8 per bird

Startena: Consists of a 30%-protein ration designed to promote rapid growth through bone and muscle development.

Finisher: 20%-protein ration designed to promote growth for mallards that are to be sold for meat.

Flight Conditioner: 19%-protein ration designed to stimulate growth and feathering with minimal body fat.

Breeder: 20%-protein ration formulated to promote egg production, fertility, embryo development, and chick vigor.

Maintenance: 12.5%-protein ration is for birds that have reached maturity.

**The above information regarding the Purina feed can be found at the link above and in the booklet A Complete Guide To Game Bird Management cited in the reference section

Other Nutritional Information
Personal photo of Mallard feeding underwater
Mallards have a complete digestive tract with a digestive system used for the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Since the bill of the mallard doesn't allow for easy pecking, crushing/chewing, or tearing, they Mallard uses the help of its gizzard, just like the Wild Turkey. The gizzard works in conjunction with the true stomach of the animal to digest and absorb nutrients. The gizzard performs the major breakdown of whatever food source is consumed. If the Mallard eats some corn, the gizzard will break it down, and its true stomach will further digest and absorb nutrients. Many birds utilize a gizzard in order to fully digest the food and maximize nutrient uptake.

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