Утка – птица не особо разборчивая в пище. Ввиду особенностей строения, которые являются результатом длительного приспособления к определенным условиям, утка с легкостью собирает корм как на суше, так и с поверхности воды. Она отлично «ловит» пищу в толще воды и, что особенно важно, со дна, иногда просто процеживая донный ил через специальное приспособление своего клюва.
Дикие утки – птицы перелетные, инстинкт толкает их к длительному перелету в Южную Азию или Африку. Однако, ввиду довольно существенных изменений микроклимата, в крупных городах, вблизи атомных электростанций и заводов сформировались популяции зимующих уток, живущих на берегах незамерзающих водоемов. Птицы прекрасно чувствуют себя даже при значительных понижениях температуры воздуха. С пропитанием тоже особых проблем не бывает. Однако, ввиду того, что затрат энергии на поддержание температуры тела происходит больше, чем в теплое время года, уток необходимо подкармливать. Как при этом не навредить оставшимся зимовать рядом с человеком пернатым? Попробуем разобраться.
Что едят утки в природе?
Основой питания диких уток в природе является растительная пища. Весьма охотно утки собирают питательную ряску с поверхности водоема. Сочные водные растения можно считать их любимым кормом, доступным и обильным на дне, поверхности и берегах природных водоемов в летнее время. Если при этом им попадается улитка или личинка насекомого, утки не отказываются и от них. Процеживая воду сквозь клюв, утки с успехом ловят рыбью молодь и головастиков.
Также они способны пропускать через свой клюв ил, что позволяет им не только выбирать съедобные растительные остатки, но и отлавливать беспозвоночных (червей, личинок, насекомых). Сочная околоводная растительность входит в рацион питания диких уток. Весной в водоемах утки поедают питательную икру амфибий. А осенью они любят совершать вечерние перелеты на сжатые поля, где собирают осыпавшееся зерно.
Замерзание водоемов и прекращение роста водяной растительности – главные причины перелета диких уток, стремящихся обеспечить себя привычной пищей.
Чем можно подкармливать?
Птицы, оставшиеся зимовать на пруду, например, в парке, на самом деле часто являются жертвой добрых намерений посетителей этого самого парка, начавших их подкармливать еще летом. Птицы довольно быстро привыкают к обилию пищи и с наступлением осени не чувствуют изменений ее питательности и разнообразия, что должно было бы стать сигналом к отлету.
The termination of feeding by a person in this case is completely unacceptable. Although the birds remain wild, their behavior is still significantly different from their truly wild counterparts. Constantly receiving plentiful food, ducks lose the need to search for it. And if you stop feeding them at this time, tragedy can happen. Even after leaving the reservoir, birds, most often, do not find an alternative to the abundant and affordable food to which they are accustomed.
In some reservoirs, wild ducks remain due to the fact that they do not freeze, receiving a constant influx of warm water from industrial plants or power plants. Even in winter, life does not stop there. Some plants continue to grow, while fish and invertebrates remain active.
The remaining ducks for the winter need to be fed to help them cope with conditions to which ducks are generally not adapted.
Hibernating ducks are usually fed with mixed feed. Unlike poultry, whose ration is developed depending on the purposes for which they are fed (for meat or for obtaining eggs), wild birds eat a variety of foods. This is perhaps the main difference between the diet of wild and domestic ducks.
In winter, wild ducks can be fed with a grain mixture: barley, peas, oats, corn, wheat. Oats are excellent poultry food, nutritious, high in vegetable fats and amino acids. Most useful for adult wild birds is barley, which is rich in essential proteins and fiber. Wheat is no less valuable, it contains B vitamins and proteins. High-protein product, peas, it is better to give crushed, for example, in halves or peas. In addition to protein and fiber, yellow varieties of corn will enrich the body of ducks with carotene.
Of course, you can also use combined feeds for feeding wild ducks. There are even special mixtures for wild ducks, but it is rather difficult to get them due to the specifics of the product. Combined feeds must be soaked before serving, since ducks cannot eat it when dry , however, some quickly acquire the skill to soak pellets in water, but this takes some time. However, this feed has one and rather significant drawback - the high price.
Boiled vegetables are very useful: potatoes, carrots, beets. They provide enough vitamins and minerals. The lack of minerals replenished from animal food must be compensated for, for example, with eggshells and shells. A mixture of dried herbs (dandelion, clover, nettle, alfalfa) is well eaten - this is perhaps the best source of vitamins. You can also give ducks such food not chopped, they easily tear off dry leaves. Vegetables are successfully replacing vegetable waste that is unsuitable for humans.
Be sure to have proteins in the diet of ducks, boiled eggs, fish, meat or fish meal, low-fat cottage cheese can become their source. It is not necessary to peel boiled eggs from the shell, they can be crumbled right in the shell. Protein ingredients should be free of bone fragments and should be served with a cereal mixture. In extreme cold, it is better to replace boiled or steamed grain with dry grain, otherwise it freezes into a mass completely inaccessible to birds.
For digestion, ducks absolutely need sand and small pebbles, of course, if the reservoir does not freeze, the birds will find the necessary material at its bottom, but it is still better to take care of this in advance. The size of soil particles can reach up to 0.5 cm. Coarse river sand, special soil for birds or aquariums will do. Marble chips and pebbles can be added to feed.
It is important to remember that abundant food is not at all good for ducks, even in winter. Decreased physical activity with abundant nutrition often causes obesity and death of birds.
Can bread be given?
Bread is the most readily available food for birds living in park ponds. Feeding ducks with it can be observed everywhere. Elderly people, mothers with children, and even couples in love are doing this.
Seeing the reaction of birds to the abandoned crumbs, many show confidence in the unconditional benefits of this event for hungry city birds. However, are the ducks really hungry? If feeding takes place in the summer, then, most likely, the birds are not at all hungry, and the greed with which they grab the bread that has fallen on the water is caused by a simple instinct that is entrenched in the chick period. Among ducklings, competition is especially acute, which is an important evolutionary factor affecting the survival of the species.
Even a well-fed bird will make every effort to grab the bread first. There is a stir in the flock, seemingly the result of hunger experienced by the ducks. This often encourages individuals to make regular trips to the pond to feed the ducks that live there, with a preliminary visit to a store or bakery. However, is such food good for birds?
We can unequivocally speak about the significantly greater harm of bread for wild ducks than about the benefits that they receive. Indeed, in nature, nothing like bread exists, and the digestive system of wild birds simply cannot fully digest this food.
Bread is a combination of large amounts of carbohydrates, fats, salt, yeast. All of this is not in the usual diet of birds, and accordingly, there are no enzymes necessary to break down all these ingredients. As a result, bread swallowed by ducks passes through their gastrointestinal tract slowly, swelling and preventing the birds from feeding normally. Especially dangerous are bread varieties containing rye flour, which triggers active fermentation, which further poisons the body of the wild duck. Often, birds who have eaten too much bread die from stomach blockages, which they cannot cope with.
With regular feeding, birds begin to wait for the person feeding them, not wanting to look for a more appropriate food for them. Often, it is grain feeding that usually causes migratory birds to winter. This can cause mass death of wild ducks late with the departure. In winter, with the onset of cold weather, as a rule, bread feeding also stops (grandmothers do not take their grandchildren to the park, pensioners walk not far from their home.
It is completely unacceptable to feed ducks with stale moldy bread. The birds will swallow it with the same greed as the fresh one. Mold trapped in a duck organism can lead to death of birds in a few days, causing the development of an incurable disease - aspergillosis. This disease is infrequent, but after hitting one duck in a flock, it quickly spreads to the entire flock, causing sudden mass deaths of wild ducks.
Thus, regular feeding of bread to ducks is fraught with not one, but a whole tangle of dangers: from harm to health to unacceptable distortion of behavior.
The range of foods unacceptable for feeding wild ducks is quite extensive, and the effect of the most accessible feed - bread has already been described above. Here is a list of other products that are no less dangerous for wild ducks.
Vegetables so useful to ducks, especially hard ones, should never be given whole. Even boiled ones are best chopped. And raw potatoes, squash, pumpkin, carrots, beets can cause the death of ducks adapted to the consumption of soft food . All products must be passed through a meat grinder or kneaded in another way.
Crackers (dried bread) are no less dangerous than fresh bread, once they get into the stomach of a bird, they swell, and their volume increases by about three times.
Sometimes, in an effort to increase the nutritional value of the feed mixture, cereal flour is added to it. In no case should this be done, since the effect will be the same as when consuming ready-made bread.
It is also impossible to feed the birds with cereals, for example, half-eaten at home. Especially if they were cooked in milk. Milk quickly turns sour and ducks, grabbing easily swallowed portions of porridge, fill the stomach with a completely unusual product, which they have no way to digest. Obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, of course, will not occur, but digestive disorders can have the most serious consequences.
Regular feeding with pumpkin or zucchini, which have a laxative effect, is dangerous for birds. Thus, calcium is excreted from the body in large quantities, which is necessary for bone tissue. These foods can be fed in small amounts.
When giving dry herbs to ducks, it is advisable to make sure that no poisonous ones, especially buttercup or some nightshades, fall among them. In the summer, ducks are usually able to choose plant food, while in the winter they can easily swallow junk food.
In places where birds are feeding, it is necessary to regularly remove feed residues, as stale feed, especially moldy, can cause illness and death of birds.
Diet depending on the season
In nature, the diet of ducks varies significantly with the seasons. Autumnal impoverishment of the diet generally forces them to make annual long migrations, one of the goals of which is to provide food for migratory birds in winter. There, in their second homeland, birds find enough food, similar to what they consume in summer in their nesting areas, and there is no change in their diet. Wintering ducks, which are forced to endure a rather extreme change in conditions, are another matter, causing the need to change the amount and composition of food.
It is actually very difficult to follow natural changes in the diet, providing artificial nutrition to wintering waterfowl. However, if a number of rules are observed, it is still possible to ensure safe adaptation to the changing seasons and, accordingly, the survival of migratory birds in winter.
The most difficult season for the remaining migratory birds. The duck finds itself in conditions that are completely uncharacteristic of it. Low temperatures, ice on the surface of water bodies, reduction of usually abundant natural food. To survive such extreme conditions, first of all, it is necessary to approximately double the nutritional value of the diet. How can this be achieved? In fodder mixtures, the so-called mash, the concentration of the most high-calorie elements (grain, mixed fodder, potatoes) should be increased. The animal component of the mash should be increased.
In summer, birds receive a lot of animal feed in a natural reservoir, it is necessary to try to cover the reduction of natural animal proteins by feeding the ducks with fish and meat meal. Dairy products, eggs, small fish and all sorts of meat waste can be an excellent source of essential amino acids. In this case, the presence of bones or their fragments is unacceptable. The bone swallowed by the duck cannot be pulled back. The bird usually dies.
It is better to give the mixers warm, in a semi-liquid form. The amount of feed is calculated so that its bulk is eaten in a few minutes. The feed remaining in the feeders will freeze and will not be available to the ducks. In addition, birds should always have access to dry grain mixtures that allow them to feed almost constantly.
With the thawing of reservoirs, ducks, as a rule, quickly switch to looking for food in the water. If the ecosystem of the pond is close enough to the natural one, ducks begin to actively feed already with the appearance of the banks. The spring migration of ducks returning to their nesting sites usually occurs after the opening of rivers, during the spring flood. There is no shortage of food at this time for the birds that have arrived: fish go to spawn, amphibians spawn, invertebrates are active.
Park ponds usually cannot provide such a varied diet and ducks must be fed on them even in this season.
This is especially important in view of the fact that birds need to sit on the nests. Females lose weight significantly during the incubation period, and if you stop feeding them at the end of winter, they may not survive this difficult period.
The composition of the spring feed mixture practically does not differ from what the birds consumed in winter, only the calorie content and the amount of food should be reduced. Ducks no longer have such an urgent need to maintain body temperature, so excessive feeding can cause obesity, which is fatal for wild birds.
Most favorable season for waterfowl. Under natural conditions, ducks receive all the substances necessary for life in sufficient quantities. However, birds that have settled in park reservoirs will still need additional feeding. During this season, it is very important to diversify the diet of ducks with so-called seasonal feeds.
It is necessary to add herbs (nettle, clover, alfalfa and others) to the mash - this will increase the content of vitamins and fiber.
For migratory birds, this is a very important time. Abundant feeding is designed to provide an adequate supply of energy for long-distance migration. It is very difficult to artificially create a transition from abundant to poor feeding, however, it is still possible. A well-chosen diet can induce ducks to leave the reservoir at the same time as their natural counterparts.
In practice, however, most often, it is not possible to guess the timing of the decrease in the abundance of food, and the ducks may again miss the departure time. In this case, it is necessary to prepare them for the coming winter, not reducing, but, on the contrary, increasing the calorie content of feed.
See the following video for feeding wild ducks.