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4 Ways Understanding a Duck’s Diet Leads to Better Waterfowl Hunting

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All hardcore duck hunters dream of flooded agriculture fields, but a duck’s diet goes far beyond corn. Understanding that can make you a much better waterfowler. 

Hundreds of thousands of ducks, making up more than 40 species, head south each winter in search of warmer climates, a potential mate, and most importantly, food. Food is one of, if not the, major driver for waterfowl migrations, and understanding the what, where, and why of different food sources can make you a much better duck hunter. Most duck hunters think that only flooded ag fields can bring in more waterfowl, but there is much more to a duck’s diet than can be found in flooded corn, millet, and soybean fields.

We are talking about naturally occurring species common in the wetland areas of North America.  Here is a list of four food types that most waterfowl crave and  that you should be on the lookout for the next time you are searching for a new duck hole.

1. Nature’s Fruits

Flickr/harum.koh
Flickr/harum.koh

No, we’re not talking about apples, peaches, strawberries. We’re talking about the fruiting bodies of various grasses and trees.  The bristly, barbed fruits of the genus “bidens”, better known as “sticktights” or “beggar lice”, are a coveted food of waterfowl that naturally occur in most wetland areas. Ducks also love the fruiting bodies of some hardwoods, including acorns.

2. Common Weeds

Curly Dock Photo Credit: www.backyardnature.net
Curly Dock Photo Credit: www.backyardnature.net

Some of us likely spend countless hours fighting this next group in our manicured lawns. Truth is, some of the very plants we regard as “weeds” in our yards are also some favorites of waterfowl.  Next time you see smartweed, barnyardgrass, crabgrass, or curly dock on the edges of your favorite duck hole, don’t even think about pulling them up!

3. Aquatic Plants

Photo Credit: www.gopixpic.com
Photo Credit: www.gopixpic.com

With names like “duckweed”, “duck potato”, and “widgeon grass”, how could they not be a preferred food of our feathered favorites. Many ducks love the tender stems, seeds, and rhizomes of aquatic plants. Emergent plants like duck potato and wild rice are a favorite of dabbling ducks. Many species also enjoy submersed plants like wild celery, pondweed, and others.

4. Bugs

Photo Credit: www.red-grey.co.uk
Photo Credit: www.red-grey.co.uk

More correctly termed as “invertebrates”, bugs play a major role as a protein source for ducks. Waterboatmen, backswimmers, midges, and snails are all favorites of waterfowl trying to pack in some protein.

To be a good duck hunter, you don’t have to focus all of your efforts finding a flooded corn field. Start keying in on the naturally occurring duck buffet going on around you. We guarantee you won’t be let down if you can find one or all of those mentioned in this list.

NEXT: Boone and Crocket Buck Taken with Classic Military Rifle in North Carolina

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4 Ways Understanding a Duck’s Diet Leads to Better Waterfowl Hunting