Can Ducks Fly Far and As High As Birds?

can ducks fly

Can ducks fly? Unlike their fellow chickens, who rarely ever fly in their whole life, ducks can cause way more worries for farmers who want to keep them in one place as they can really fly. But, fortunately, this does not happen to all breeds of duck, and not all the time. Scroll down for more information!

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Can ducks fly?

In the wild, most duck species have the ability to fly as they need to move further away for food and shelter when winter comes. Not only is the flying ability essential to such long-distance migration, but it also plays an important role in their survival from predators.

In order to fly, ducks (and birds in general) have wings that are curved in shape and face downward, almost like an upside-down spoon that utilizes the higher air pressure underneath the wings (compared to above) to create lift.

Together with other factors such as feather pattern, light and hollow bone structure, powerful muscle, and effective respiratory system, those feathered animals can generate forceful lift and thrust that can sustain themselves in the air for long distances.

However, ducks on our farm nowadays have definitely changed in many characteristics as their living conditions have been so much different compared to where they were originally from.

flying ducks

Read our related article, Can Chickens Fly? Chickens can fly, but not very far. We explore chicken flight in this guide!

Do all ducks fly?

Not all ducks fly although it is deemed a natural survival instinct for them. So why?

As for the theory of evolution, if ducks don’t have to migrate for food or to protect themselves from predators, their flying instinct is no longer in use and gradually disappears. It happens to domestic ducks and some duck species in the wild.

Most domestic ducks don’t develop their muscle for flying at young ages so it is unlikely that they will fly when growing up full-size. Although many farm ducks can still run and flap their wings to lift their body in the air for 2-3 minutes, most of them are bred or kept not to fly much, intentionally.

You should know: What Is A Group Of Ducks Called?

Can ducks fly high?

Flying ducks generally migrate at any height between 200 to 4,000 feet above the ground, but the maximum height they can reach is even greater than that.

In 1954, climbers to Mount Everest found a skeleton of a pintail duck at the height of 16,400 feet. The highest flying altitude of a duck that is ever recorded is 21,000 feet, where a jet plane in North American was said to have struck a mallard.

When it comes to categorizing ducks, there can be two types: dabbling ducks and diving ducks. 

Diving ducks, also known as sea ducks or scaups, are the ones that live mainly on the sea surface and use their body weight to dive deep hunting for fish. Common diving ducks are Eiders, Buffleheads, and Mergansers.

Read More: How Long Can Diving Ducks Stay Underwater? We explore how long diving ducks can stay submerged and the depths they can reach!

Dabbling ducks, on the other hand, are ones who feed on shallow water and land. Mallards, American Wigeons, and Northern Shovelers are some typical names of dabbling ducks.

Due to their natural instinct for hunting food, the divings are often heavier than the dabblings, inherently the latter can fly higher than the former.

Mallard ducks flying high together
Mallards ducks flying high together

Read More: How to Pick Up a Pet Duck. We show you how to properly pick up ducks to make them comfortable and prevent injury!

How far can ducks fly?

Not only ducks are capable of flying at astonishingly high altitudes, but they can also travel a great long distance. With an average speed of 50mph, a mallard can fly non-stop for eight hours and travel up to 800 miles, which is typical in any of their seasonal migrations.

According to research, preparing for these long-haul flights, including feeding and resting, can take up to a whole week.

Read more: Where Do Ducks Sleep?

More Interesting Facts about Duck Flying Abilities

1. Can ducks fly at night?

The answer is absolutely YES, but depending on each different habitation, each species of duck can choose to fly at night or not.

Species like Waterflow, pintails or black ducks are actually more active at night when they can utilize the moon for finding food.

Black ducks wait until the tide is low at night where they can have the best food availability. Pintails actually start their night-feeding flights, which can be up to 15 miles further away, only after sunset.

Some other species, on the contrary, like Gadwalls, diminish mostly their nocturnal activity and instead spend time resting in order to stay away from the hunt of other flying predators.

ducks fly at night

Read More: How Long Can Ducks Survive Without Water? Water is an essential part of ducks’ life, but how long can they go without it? We explore this question in our guide!

2. Can ducks fly in the rain?

Ducks can fly in the rain and wind, but they always need shelter at night and through extreme weather.

A sprinkling of rain won’t bother them so much, but harsh weather conditions like high winds, ice storms, or snowfall are tough for ducks to bear and thus make shelter very important for them to stay healthy.

Read More: Why Do Ducks Quack at Each Other? Here are the many reasons ducks quack and how you can keep your ducks quiet at night!

3. Can ducks fly with clipped wings?

Clipping duck wings only involves cutting the tip of a few feathers on one wing, which will result in the unbalance of the duck and thus make them unable to fly.

Most farm ducks nowadays are bred to not be able to fly much. But some of them still can. Farmers who keep species like East Indies, Muscovies, or Calls can clip the duck wings to stop them from flying away.

clip the duck wings

Although clipping wings is not painful to ducks, there are still a few small notices you should pay attention to.

Only clip the primary feather because the rest are crucial to insulation. If your ducks are light in color, you can spread the wings feather out and find the blood vessels to not cut them. Definitely ask for consultancy from a local vet if you are unfamiliar with this process.

Read More: What is a Male Mallard Duck Called? This ultimate complete guide to male ducks discusses their proper name and how you can tell a male from a female duck!

Final words 

In short, not only ducks do fly but can fly at astonishing height and distance. But most domesticated ducks nowadays are bred not to. Clipping wings is a safe solution for farmers who keep ducks that can still fly. We hope this post is helpful to you. All the best to your farming experience!

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