Can Domesticated Ducks Fly?

There are different types of locomotion, peculiar to different animals, for instance; a man walks, snakes slither, fish swims, alligators crawl and so on. Hence, birds are expected to fly.

But on the contrary, some domestic birds either fly only short distances or do not fly at all. Even some wild birds don’t fly e.g ostrich, penguin, kiwi, emu among others. It must be mentioned that most wild birds that don’t fly lost their ability to fly through over time.

Ancestral species of domesticated birds, such as the domestic chicken and domestic turkey, the red junglefowl and mallard, respectively, can fly for extended periods. Yet, their domesticated counterpart had lost that feature.

Birds, such as the brief breasted white turkey have become flightless due to selective breeding; they were bred in such a way that they now weigh too much that their wings can’t support them in flight.

Are you a domestic duck farmer? Do you want your domesticated birds to fly around like wild birds? Or you are wondering why your ducks fly higher or longer than other domestic birds?

Here, we shall discuss in detail all you need to know about domesticated ducks and their ability to fly.

Why can’t domesticated ducks fly

Waterfowls are fun-loving birds. They can be found in both fresh and seawater. Geese, swans and ducks belong to the same family, Anatidae.

Research shows that certain species of ducks can fly. The different species of ducks include; Dabbling ducks like the Mallard or Garganey, Diving ducks such as the Pochard or Scaup

Sea ducks like the Velvet Scoter or Red-breasted Merganser. Most duck species can fly well while others can’t or choose not to. Some species can only fly short distances or in height.

Body size, body weight, wing structure, condition, and environment are the factors that determine their inability to fly.

Hence, many domesticated ducks can’t fly due to their; large body size, enormous weight, short wings and natural habitat.

Which domestic ducks can fly?

Even though most domesticated breeds of ducks have lost their ability to fly, yet, there are still some exceptions. The few exceptions include; Muscovies, Calls, East Indies and domestic Mallards.

These particular breeds can all fly to a reasonable extent. If you keep any of them, experts recommend that you clip their wings regularly. In addition, the Pekin duck as well as the Rouen and the Cayuga cannot fly.

How high can ducks fly?

Averagely, ducks can migrate within 60 – 1200 meters but can reach higher heights. According to the history of the North American duck, its highest altitude was documented when a jet plane over Nevada struck a mallard at an altitude of 6,400 meters.

Similarly, during migration, ducks can fly to a very high altitude to avoid overheating and dehydration. Ruddy shelducks and mallards usually reach 6,400 meters in height.

Primarily, ducks fly to save energy and stay away from dangers including predators like hawks.

From statistics, it can be concluded that ducks that fly up to 6,400 meters during migration usually have strong wing beats and can be termed good fliers.

How long can a duck fly?

Averagely, ducks fly at a speed of around 50 miles per hour. But most waterfowls can comfortably reach 60 miles per hour. For example, mallard ducks can travel roughly 800 miles in 8 hours.

Red-breasted merganser that flew at a top speed of 100 miles per hour as it flew next to an aeroplane was the fastest duck ever recorded in history. Slower species can reach speeds of about 30 miles per hour. The slowest ducks are; blue-winged and green-winged teals.

It was recorded that the black Brant travels 300miles in less than 72hours as it flies non-stop during the migration. However, most ducks only travel 750 miles during migration.

Most times, ducks travel for 8hours before resting. Yet, the black Brant travels for 72 hours without resting.

It must be mentioned that ducks only migrate due to unfavourable climate and environmental conditions. And will need to rest for about 3-7days after a long air trip.

Should duck wings be clipped?

Ducks travel by air using their wings, they can only migrate if they have fully grown wings. So as a farmer, you can prevent your ducks from engaging in a long flight by clipping their wings, only once a year.

Also, if you keep a duck as a pet, you expect your bird to graze and swim around a yard without fear of it flying away, you can easily achieve that by clipping its wings.

To clip your bird’s wings,

  • move the bird to a place that is free of distractions, calm and quiet.
  • Place the bird on its back, if you are clipping your bird’s wings for the first time, you may wrap it in a towel without covering its head and neck.
  • Just from underneath the towel, remove one wing, hold it appropriately and extend it fully.
  • Using a pier of sharp scissors or tin cutter, clip 10 of the duck’s primary flight feathers. Cut one feather at a time from outward to inward.
  • You can then release the bird back to its habitat.

While clipping your bird’s wings, do not cut a duck’s blood feathers as that will cause pain if clipped. If you don’t know how to clip wings, you may consult an expert.

Is it cruel to clip ducks’ wings?

Simply put, clipping ducks’ wings aren’t cruel as proper wing clipping causes no harm to the bird. Just as hair and nails in humans, feathers are made of keratin. And besides, it doesn’t take much time to complete the task plus it only needs to be done once a year after the annual moult.

Do ducks feel pain when their wings are clipped?


When properly done, ducks don’t feel any pain during or after clipping. However, if you intend to clip your duck’s wing yourself, it is recommended that you strictly follow the safety precautions laid down by experts.

Therefore, provided every other condition remains constant, clipping doesn’t hurt, harm or cause any pain in ducks.

Are there any ducks that can’t fly?

Yes, some domesticated duck breeds can’t fly at all. These breeds include; Pekin, Rouen, Cayuga, Indian Runners, Welsh Harlequin and the Buff Orpington.

These species don’t attempt flying except in extraordinary cases. Most of them naturally have very short wings that don’t allow them to fly. Yet, in most cases, you can see them flutter their wings and hop around on the ground.

Furthermore, domesticated ducks are primarily ground-based and a prominent fraction of them can’t fly.

Can domestic ducks survive in the wild?

Just like other domestic animals, domestic ducks rely on a man for food and shelter, hence, they aren’t equipped to survive in the wild.

Your domestic duck could be dead in days if released in the wild because it lacks the skills and experience for survival. Again, domesticated ducks are very colourful and wouldn’t be able to camouflage for protection in the wild.

Therefore, it is unethical to release domesticated ducks in the wild as they won’t survive.

Wrapping Up:

Just as the name implies, domesticated ducks are expected to stay somewhere around your yard or backyard, hence, many of them can’t fly. But if you keep any of the species that can fly, then, you should clip their wings as often as required. And domesticated ducks should never be released into the wild as they won’t survive.

Leave a Comment