Geese, Ducks, and Swans – where do they feed – on land or in water?

Where do geese, ducks, and swans feed? Do they feed on land or in the water?

Swans, geese, and ducks belong to the Anatidae family of water birds, living near freshwater sources. They are all anatids.

Some anatids feed on land; some feed at the water’s edge; some feed in shallow water; and some dive down to feed at the bottom of the pond or river. 

Hawaiian Goose

The Goose feeds on land. The Duck feeds on land and in the water. The Swan can feed in deeper water.

The Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) grazes in meadows and marshes. It feeds on snails and other invertebrates on the ground.

The Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna sp.)grazes in the land vegetation on the shore line on the edge of ponds and water sources.

Fulvous Whistling Duck

The Dabbling Duck, such as the Teal (Anas crecca), eats seeds and vegetation in very shallow water near the edge of the land.

Chestnut Teal

The Shoveler Duck (Anas clypeata) eats seeds and molluscs on the surface of pond water and in shallow water.

The Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) eats seeds and submerged plants and vegetation.

Mallard Duck
Mallard Duck

The Diving Duck, such as the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), dives up to 2 meters (6 feet) deep to grab crustaceans, like freshwater crabs and shrimp.

The Diving Duck, such as the Pochard (Aythya farina), will eat plants and molluscs by diving up to 4 meters (13 feet) deep in the water.


The Swan (Cygnus sp.) uses its long neck to pluck aquatic plants on the bottom of the pond or river in water up to 5 meters (16 feet) deep.  

Mute Swan
Paris Zoo

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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