Waterfowl Conservation Workshop Highlights Nutritional Research

The International Wild Waterfowl Association (IWWA) recently held its Future of Waterfowl Conservation Workshop, and one point of discussion was related to the nutritional needs of different types of waterfowl in various settings. Held at the Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, N.C., the three-day workshop assembled more than 70 individuals from private aviculture, zoos, veterinarians and other allied specialists in avian health and management worldwide.

The nutrition and animal health session highlighted existing research and allowed attendees the opportunity to discuss the findings along with evaluating knowledge gaps for further research to be completed.

To start, providing a balanced diet is important – a complete diet needs to provide all required nutrients to avoid deficiencies, but at the same time avoid providing excess nutrients. In the wild, 56 to 90 percent of waterfowls’ time is estimated to be spent foraging and feeding. Therefore, as shown in the chart below, energy requirements are much higher in the wild; in captivity energy intake can become excessive.

The session also reviewed the current understanding of the nutrient requirements in the three different categories of waterfowl – herbivorous waterfowl, dabbling ducks, and diving and sea ducks. It included an overview of how they eat, what they eat, the frequency they eat and their known energy requirements.

The availability and access to complete nutrition have been found to be a factor in functions, including immune system development, breeding, expendable body reserves for incubation and egg production in all waterfowl.

  • Herbivorous waterfowl include geese, swans and some species of ducks. Because they have a plant-based diet, there is some seasonality in their food selection. For example, they have green leaves available in the spring and summer but turn to seeds, grains, and roots in the fall and winter. They require higher protein levels during breeding and growth, and higher energy levels pre-migration. Achieve these levels with higher quality plant material with better digestibility.

  • Dabbling ducks consume plant matter along with mussels, shrimp and insects as they are available seasonally. They forage on the surface of the water.

  • Diving ducks are similar to dabbling ducks as they also consume a combination of plant and animal matter. However, their diet is often primarily crustaceans as they have legs optimized for propulsion through the water and also dive for their food.

  • Sea ducks eat almost exclusively on crustaceans, fish and other marine animals. Like diving ducks, their anatomy is uniquely suited to diving for their food.


Mazuri® offers a series of waterfowl diets including a starter, maintenance, and a breeder diet - primarily designed for dabbling and omnivorous ducks. The feed was developed to float, so ducks can eat on the water as they would in the wild. The ability to eat on the water promotes leg health, especially for ducks which are not meant to wander on land.

Mazuri® Sea Duck Diet is also available for both diving and sea ducks. Working with waterfowl breeders across the country, Mazuri® continues to gain a better understanding of the specific nutritional needs of diving and sea ducks.

It’s important to keep in mind, waterfowl diets available from Mazuri® are designed for supplementation. They represent a base and allow you to add forage or leafy greens for herbivorous ducks or crustaceans for omnivorous ducks to build a complete feeding program. By using Mazuri® waterfowl diets as a component of a comprehensive feeding program, you can optimize nutrition to meet the specific animal needs. Proper nutrition is vital for waterfowl, no matter the setting. Without it, animals can fall into poor fertility, weak eggshells, poor body condition, poor feather quality and compromised health.