Can Ducks Fly?

Ducks have quite small wings, so soaring like a hawk is not an option. Ducks are found near both freshwater and seawater and on every continent around the world except for Antarctica. They must flap their wings fast about ten times per second, to keep their relatively large bodies airborne. Duck wings are pointed and long, like those of a peregrine falcon the fastest bird on Earth. With this wing shape and rapid wingbeat, most ducks can fly at 80 kilometers in one hour.

The tradeoff with fast flight is that ducks are least nimble compared to birds like swallows that need to make quick and precise turns while hunting for insects over grasslands and wetlands. Dabbling ducks have slightly wider wings greatly suited to dodging wetland obstacles like trees and cat tails. Diving ducks longer wings are better for flying over open water, where maneuverability is not as crucial.

Flight feathers are shaped non-symmetrically and overlap so the wing is both curved and tapered. The strong flight muscles that power their wingbeats aid ducks, but this basic wing shape makes flight easier or possible.


The word duck comes from Old English word dūce “diver”, a derivative of the verb dūcan “to duck or bend down low as if to get under something or dive” because of the way various species in the dabbling duck group eat by upending compare with Dutch duiken and German tauchen to dive.

A duckling is a young duck in down plumage or baby duck but in the food trade a young domestic duck, which has just attained adult size and bulk and its meat is still fully tender is sometimes called as a duckling.

A male duck is called a drake and the female one is called a duck or in ornithology a hen.

Do All Ducks Fly?

Most species of ducks have wings that are strong, short and pointed to assist the bird’s need for fast, continuous strokes, as many duck species migrate long distances in the winter months.

But not all ducks fly. Domesticated ducks specifically those that were born in captivity and raised by humans usually don’t fly because they don’t have to. They have plenty of food and shelter where there habitat, and danger is at a minimum. But there are also a number of wild duck species for example the Falkland steamer duck, whose wings are so short that it is incapable of flight.

When feathers go flying:

Ducks have 10 long and stiffed primary feathers. These are the wing feathers found the furthest from the body. They are attached by ligaments to what would be the hand bone, if ducks had hands. These are very essential for flight, domestic birds with clipped wings have had their primary feathers cut off to prevent them from flying. Primary feathers give the thrust on the wing’s downbeat. They are darker at the ends due to a high concentration of melanin the same compound that gives human skin its color which makes the ends of these essential feathers resistant to wear.

Secondary feathers are much shorter flight feathers that are anchored to the forearm bone, spread out close to the primaries. They form up the speculum, a flash of color featured by many duck wings, which is sparkling green, purple, blue or white, depending on the species. On the wings upbeat, the primary feathers spread out to allow air passage, while the secondary feathers force air up from the wings, giving them lift.

Wing coverts keep the bases of primary and secondary feathers full covered on both sides of the wing. They contour the wings, creating a very smooth surface for optimal airflow. On blue winged teal, the upper wing shields also form their unmistakable cobalt blue wing patch.

Tail feathers work as a rudder, helping to stabilize and control flight.

Because ducks have big bodies and relatively small wings, they struggle to fly at slow speeds. The winglet or alula in Latin is a group of 3 to 5 feathers that attach where you would expect your thumb to be. The alula creates a break in the wing surface to help steady flight and assist with landing.


Ducks naturally have what it takes to get in the air, but they need support from their ground crew, too. Ongoing investments in habitat conservation and scientific research are mostly needed to address challenges like loss of habitat and food supply in waterfowl breeding and wintering ranges.

Did you know?

Waterfowl have as many as 12 thousand separate skin muscles used for feather control. Ducks and geese lift or compress their plumage in various ways to help regulate their body heat, dive underwater, and express emotions, such as aggression or amorousness.

A male duck is called a drake. A female is referred to as a hen. And baby ducks are called ducklings. So how can you tell whether it’s a drake or a hen? In almost all cases male ducks have much more colorful plumage, while the female’s feathers tend to be drab and plain. This is because male ducks need to be able to attract a female, but the females especially when protecting or sheltering their babies and nest need to be able to blend into their surroundings to hide from predators.

What Do Ducks Eat?

Contrary to what you might see all around the pond, the main foods ducks eat are not bread or popcorn. Ducks are omnivores which means that they feed on both plants and animals. They feed on a big variety of foods aquatic plants, small fish, worms, insects, grubs, mollusks, salamanders, and fish eggs. One species of duck, the Merganser, mainly eats fish.


Ducks mostly only have one partner at a time, although the partnership usually only lasts one single year. Larger species and the more sedentary species for example: fast-river specialists tend to have pair-bonds that last several years. Most duck species breed only once a year, choosing to do so in favorable conditions (spring/summer or in wet seasons). Ducks also tend to make a nest before breeding, and after hatching, then lead their ducklings to water. Mother ducks are very caring and protective of their young babies, but may abandon some of their ducklings if they are physically stuck in an area they cannot get out of (such as nesting in an enclosed courtyard) or are not prospering due to genetic defects or sickness brought about by starvation, hypothermia, or disease. Ducklings can also be orphaned by any irregular late hatching where a few eggs hatch after the mother has abandoned the nest and led her ducklings towards water. Most domestic ducks ignore their eggs and ducklings, and their eggs must be hatched artificially or under a broody hen.


Worldwide, ducks have numerous predators. Ducklings are particularly vulnerable since their inability to fly makes them easy prey not only for predatory birds but also for large fish like crocodilians, pike, predatory testudines such as the Alligator snapping turtle, and other various aquatic hunters, including fish eating birds such as herons. Ducks nests are attacked by land based predators, and brooding females may be caught unaware on the nest by mammals, such as foxes, or large birds, such as hawks or owls.

Adult ducks are fast flier but may be caught on the water by large aquatic predators including big fish such as the European pike and the North American muskie. In flight, ducks are secure from all but a few predators such as humans and the peregrine falcon, which regularly uses its speed and strength to catch ducks.

What is the Difference between a Diver and a Dabbler?

Ducks can be halved into two categories diving ducks and dabbling ducks. Diving ducks and sea ducks also called scaups dive deep underwater in search of food. Mergansers, buffleheads, eiders, and scoters are all categorized as diving ducks. These ducks are usually heavier than their dabbling duck peers this aids them stay underwater.

Dabbling ducks are another category of duck. These birds live mostly in shallow water and feed by dipping their heads underwater to scoop up plants and insects. Dabbling ducks might also feed on land in search of insects and aquatic plants. Gadwalls, Mallards, northern shovelers, American wigeons, and cinnamon teals are all dabbling ducks.

Do They Say More Than Just ‘Quack’?

Sure, some ducks do quack specifically female dabbling ducks. But other ducks have a various range of noises and calls that they make.

From whistles and coos to yodels and grunts ducks have a lot of various things to say. In fact, the scaup a variety of diving duck gets its name from the noise it makes which sounds like “scaup.”

What Makes Ducks Such Good Swimmers?

Many duck species are as at home on the water as they are in the air and on the land. Ducks have two unique features that make them such good swimmers; webbed feet and waterproof feathers.

A duck’s webbed feet are specifically designed for swimming. They act as paddles, helping ducks swim fast and far, and because ducks don’t have any nerves or blood vessels in their feet, they can easily tolerate cold water.

Ducks also have waterproof feathers that aid keep them dry and insulate them from cold conditions. Like several birds, ducks have a special gland called a preen gland near their tails that makes oil. Using their bills, ducks can diffuse this oil while preening to coat their feathers and provide a layer of waterproofing that keeps them slick in the water.

How Many Ducks Hatch in One Season?

Ducks mostly seek out their mates during the winter. As they find a partner, they will stay with that one specific mate for the next year but then may move on to other partners for their next mating cycle.

For most of the duck species, the female lays anywhere from 5 to 12 eggs and then tend to leave those eggs in her nest until they hatch after about 28 days. The number of eggs that a female lays is directly correlated to the amount of available daylight. The more daylight she has been exposed to, the more eggs she will lay.

Mother ducks have to work really hard to keep their brood secure and sheltered while her ducklings are growing. Baby ducks are frequently preyed upon by hawks, snakes, raccoons, turtles, and large fish. Male ducks majorly stay with the other males, but they guard the territory by chasing away predators whenever it’s possible.

Mother ducks lead their ducklings to water shortly after birth. Ducklings are generally able to fly within five to eight weeks.

How Long Do Ducks Live?

The lifetime of a duck depends upon a number of factors, such as what species of duck they are and whether it lives in the wild or is raised on a farm as well as the number of eggs they lay (more eggs, shorter life).

In the right conditions a wild duck can live as long as twenty years. Domestic ducks typically survive from 10 to 15 years in captivity.

According to the book Guinness World Records, the oldest duck ever to have lived in the United Kingdom was a female mallard duck that lived to be 20 years, three months, and 16 days old before she died in August 2002.

Do Ducks Have Teeth?

Like other species of birds, ducks do not have any real or actual teeth, but many species do have rows of thin bristles in their mouths that let them scoop and filter nutrient particles out of the water. These bristles are not teeth, but they sure do look like them.

Incidentally, this water filtering system is similar to the way in which whales feed in the ocean.

Relationship with humans:


Ducks have various economic uses, being farmed for their eggs, meat, and feathers (particularly their down). Approximately three billion ducks are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide. They are also kept and bred by aviculturists and often displayed in certain zoos. Almost all the varieties of domestic ducks are descended from the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), apart from the Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata). The call duck is also an example of a domestic duck breed. Its name comes from its initial use established by hunters, as a decoy to attract wild mallards from the sky, into traps set for them on the ground. The call duck is the world’s smallest domestic duck breed, as it weighs less than 1 kilogram.


In many areas, wild ducks of different species (including ducks farmed and released into the wild) are hunted for food or sport, by shooting, or formerly by being trapped using duck decoys. Because an idle floating duck or a duck squatting on land cannot react to fly or do quick movement, “a sitting duck” has come to mean “an easy target”. These ducks may also be contaminated by pollutants such as PCBs.

Cultural references

In 2002, psychologist Richard Wiseman and his colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, finished a year-long LaughLab experiment, concluding that of all animals, ducks attract the most humor and foolishness; he said, “If you are going to tell a joke involving an animal, make it a duck.” The word “duck” may have become an inherently funny word in many different languages, possibly because ducks are seen as silly in their behavior or looks. Of the many ducks in fiction, many are cartoon characters, sfor example Walt Disney’s Donald Duck, and Warner Bros. Daffy Duck. Howard the Duck started as a comic book character in 1973 and was made into a movie in the year 1986.

The 1992 Disney film The Mighty Ducks, starring Emilio Estevez, chose the duck as the mascot for the fictional youth hockey team who are protagonists of the movie, based on the duck being described as a fierce fighter. This led to the duck becoming the nickname and mascot for the eventual National Hockey League professional team of the Anaheim Ducks, who were founded with the name the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The duck is also the nickname of the University of Oregon sports teams as well as the Long Island Ducks minor league baseball team.

Frequently Asked Questions :open_book:

Can ducks fly in the sky?

A species of duck is able to fly at altitudes of up to 6,800 metres (22,000 feet), researchers have discovered. The ruddy shelduck’s flying is the “first evidence of extreme high-altitude flight in a duck”, according to experts from the University of Exeter.

Do duck bites hurt?

When ducks bite, it can be very painful.

Bites range from a slight pinch to a strong grab, and any of them could result in serious bruising or even bleeding. Male ducks, or drakes, tend to bite more often than female ducks.

Can Ducks love humans?

Because of the deep bond between parent and duckling, human-raised ducks will spend their lives seeking the love and attention of their human companion. Much like the more familiar loyalty of a dog, ducks know who their owners are and regularly express love and recognition affectionately.

At what age do ducks fly?

Four months

Two months after hatching, the fledgling period has ended, and the duckling is now a juvenile. Between three and four months of age, the juvenile can finally begin flying, as its wings are fully developed for flight (which can be confirmed by the sight of purple speculum feathers).


Ducks are incapable of flying. Most species of ducks have wings that are strong, short, and pointed to accommodate the bird’s need for fast, continuous strokes, as many duck species migrate long distances in the winter months. But not all ducks fly.

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