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DrRalston, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 2207
Experience:  Over twelve years of internal medicine, surgery, and preventive care.
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A light brown female Mallard duck, slightly smaller than the

Customer Question

A light brown female Mallard duck, slightly smaller than the common Mallard ,was inadvertently overfed with three handfulls of a mixture of grain and sunflower seeds. The base of the neck was significantly distended. She walked to a pond but did not stay to digest the food. She flew off almost immediately.
She has not been seen since.
Is it possible that she could have choked on the excessive amount of food that she had swallowed, perhaps while flying?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  DrRalston replied 4 years ago.
Impactions are definitely possible. But, this happens more with bread. It is often fed dry and the bird will fill up the crop (pouch in the esophagus) and then find itself unable to move it further down the alimentary tract.

Ducks especially do eat a lot of grains that they enounter in their migrations however. They will often eat a large amount at a time and store it in the crop.

Millet and sunflower seeds can be fed, but grains should be limited if possible to prevent ducks from getting fat and developing fatty livers. This is how duck pate is made.

I have never seen a seed or grain impaction in a duck however. And at least the grain is composed of smaller pieces. A few sunflower seeds might even help with digestion acting as grit. The shells might help grind the other seeds - much like pebbles.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell you for certain. I would tell you that even though it is possible it is unlikely. Not every crop fill leads to an obstruction.

BUT, in the future, try not to feed the ducks anything. They are quite sufficient at getting their own meals. But here is a good list of things they can eat taken from a very good blog entry:

There is the link and here is the link that you can click (click here for same link as above)

Sorry that you have experienced some stress from this event. Clearly you appreciate nature and ducks in general.

Take care,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. I would appreciate some more information about the mechanism by which the duck may have had it's respiratory system obstructed.

Also ,what is an 'impaction'?

Thank you


Expert:  DrRalston replied 4 years ago.
Hello Nigel,
Sorry I was away for a few days and unable to respond to your follow up question.

Impaction is a term we use in Veterinary Medicine to describe a blockage, particularly in the digestive system. Impacted just means pressed firmly together.

In this case, it is not the respiratory system that would become obstructed or impacted, instead it is the digestive system.

Birds have a small pouch in the digestive system called the crop :

It is a muscular pouch in the esophagus that acts as a storage area before digestion.

So, for example, in the picture of the gull, it has probably come across a large portion of food that it has greedily gobbled up as quickly as possible. Being unable to eat it all at once, it has stored some of it in the esophagus in the pouch - the crop.

Ducks do this too. The problem can happen where they overpack the crop. Seeds can do this because they pack into that small pouch, and the crop starts to compress the seeds until it forms a compacted firm mass that the duck may no longer be able to push out of the crop and into the esophagus.

It's not unusual for the ducks to sort of "eat and run" or "eat and fly" I suppose. She likely filled up the crop and took off for a safer location, maybe where her young are?