When waterfowl feed from the bottom of bodies of water, they sometimes ingest sediments along with their food, and this sediment can be a major source of contaminants. Learning how much sediment waterfowl can consume in their diet and still maintain their health would be helpful in assessing potential threats from contaminants in sediment. In a controlled laboratory study the maximum tolerated percentage of sediment in the diet of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) was measured. When fed a well-balanced commercial avian diet, 50, 60, or 70% sediment in the diet on a dry-weight basis did not cause weight loss over a two-week period. Ducks fed this same commercial diet, but containing 80 or 90% sediment, lost 8.6 and 15.6% of their body weight, respectively, in the first week on those diets. After factoring in the ability of the mallards to sieve out some of the sediment from their diet before swallowing it, we concluded that the mallards could maintain their health even when approximately half of what they swallowed, on a dry-weight basis, was sediment.
Additional publication details
Relating the ability of mallards to ingest high levels of sediment to potential contaminant exposure in waterfowl