Feeding trials were used to compare the ability of northern pintails (Anas acuta), gadwalls (A. strepera), and northern shovelers (A. clypeata) to metabolize energy from a turkey starter ration, alfalfa pellets, and common barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crusgalli) seeds. No differences (P > 0.05) were detected among the three species for any of the three foods (kg body weight/day basis), for dry matter intake (DMI), body weight gain (BWG), apparent metabolizable energy (AME), or metabolized energy (MEE) on any given diet consumed in quantities large enough to promote body weight gain. The AME content of alfalfa was 57% less than the value for turkey starter and 50% less than for barnyardgrass seeds. All three species metabolized more energy and gained weight faster when fed turkey starter. Energy modeling may be facilitated if additional research verifies that all species of dabbling ducks have equal ability to obtain energy from foods available to them in the wild. Behavioral and morphological factors may be more important in defining feeding niches than digestive physiology, at least for the three duck species tested, at the time of year of the experiments, and within the limits of the quality of foods used.