Do Ducks Fly?

Raising ducks is a fun and rewarding experience. They are a great source of nutritious eggs, soft feathers, and tasty meals.

The last thing you want is to have your ducks flying away after you have raised them. A positive is that most domestic ducks do not fly, so you need not worry about losing your flock. On the negative side, domestic ducks are tasty prey for raccoons, coyotes, dogs, and foxes. Being unable to fly makes them easy targets.

Certain breeds are strong flyers and travel hundreds of miles when migrating to warmer climates others barely can fly. Most domesticated species do not fly at all. Flight is affected by factors including species, wing structure, size, weight, living conditions, and environment.

At what age do they learn flying?

Depending on the species, ducklings learn to fly at around 5 to 8 weeks. Most ducklings stay with their mother until they can fly. The mother is very protective of her young. Ducklings that stray into the territory of another mother duck with her brood are very likely to be attacked.

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The mother will take her ducklings to the water to learn how to take off in flight. The sight of large ducks flapping their wings and rising from a lake is a magical moment.

Domesticated breeds

Most domesticated duck breeds that you will raise in your backyard or homestead farm do not fly. This is because their bodies are larger and heavier. They are happy to run or waddle and also love to swim.

Let’s look at the most popular domestic breeds.

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Indian Runner – This duck does not fly. It has very small wings and stands upright like a penguin. But, it does not waddle like a penguin. It usually moves by walking or running, giving it its name. Indian Runners love water and can spend hours swimming.

Pekin – Pekin ducks have large and heavy bodies. They do, however, have the hollow bones and strong wings that allow ducks to fly. That being said, your Pekin ducks are unlikely to fly off. Their body weight makes it difficult for them to get airborne.

Khaki Campbell – This breed is a cross between Runner, Fawn, and Rouen ducks. You will find them madly flapping their wings, but don’t worry, they are unlikely to fly away. They can fly a short distance a few inches off the ground, before settling down again.

Muscovy – Muscovies are closer to wild breeds than other domesticated ducks. They can fly but many domestic breeds have been bred to be unable to sustain flight. If you create a safe and comfortable home environment for your Muscovy ducks, they are unlikely to fly away. 

Ensure that they have adequate water ponds in the summer to cool down so that they don’t feel the need to seek cooler climates.

Rouen – Rouen ducks are a popular choice for home farmers. They have heavy bodies and are not inclined to try to fly. Apart from laying wonderful nutritious eggs, they are majestic ducks to show off. They also make great family pets.

Call Duck – Call ducks are descendants of the Mallard duck. They have a short body, a short bill and a well-known high-pitched call that can be heard from far away. Call ducks can fly, so you will need to keep their wings clipped.

Will ducks fly away if you free-range them?

Free-range ducks are happy ducks. They enjoy roaming around your property, catching insects and bugs, basking in the sun, and swimming in your pond. They are healthier and produce larger, more nutritious eggs.

Free-range ducks are unlikely to fly away, especially if you choose ducks from the breeds I chatted about above. Most domestic ducks can’t fly. Some may gain a few inches of flight and try to fly around your farm. They are very unlikely to set off on a long migration.

Why will ducks fly away?

If you choose non-flying ducks, you should not have to worry about them flying away. Some breeds, however, may try to fly as this is part of their natural instinct.

Searching for food – You must ensure that your ducks have adequate food and water. Ducks that are deprived will try to fly off in search of food.

Escaping predators – If your area is not secure and ducks are threatened by predators like dogs or foxes, they may try to fly. Although they won’t get far, they can get lost and be unable to return.

Socializing Ducks are social creatures and enjoy playing. When they get excited they may try to fly. Although they won’t get far, they could be far away enough to be lost.

Wild ducks – If you have tamed a wild duck, it could be driven by instinct to fly away. Ducks that are bred for domestic use are unlikely to do this.

Ways to prevent ducks from flying away

There are ways to prevent your ducks from flying away. These should always be done ethically.

Tie a weight to the wing – Tying a small weight like a metal washer to a wing will prevent your ducks from getting airborne. Do this with care and don’t use any item that can hurt your bird.

Clipping wings – You can clip the wings of your ducklings. You only need to clip one wing. Carefully raise the wing and identify the flight feathers which are closest to the outer edges of the wings. Clip midway. Do not clip close to the wing.

Love your ducks – Ducks are intelligent, social creatures. Although they (usually!) do not sit on your couch like a dog or a cat, you can certainly show them affection and love. 

Train your ducks to return – Even though your domestic free-ranging ducks can’t fly, they can cover large distances by hopping, walking, waddling, running, or swimming across lakes. You will need to train them to come back in at night to prevent them from becoming tasty meals for predators.

How to train ducks to return home?

One way to get ducks to return home is to only offer them food in the evening. Ducks are smart and when they see the food trays being placed out, they will come back in.

Another method is to get the ducks to respond to your call. You need to help them to associate your call with something positive. It can be feed, water, or treats. Many backyard farmers learn how to quack – yes, quack like a duck. A whistling sound can also work. Do this often and they will soon get used to the sound. When they come waddling back, offer them food or treats.

You can also train your free-ranging ducks to come indoors by rounding them up on the farm using a long pole. Gently guide them back to their pen in the evening. Do this slowly and carefully so as not to scare the ducks. After a week or so, the ducks will understand what to do. When they see you coming down to them, they will all waddle back home.

How high, how fast, and how far can ducks fly?

Migrating ducks travel thousands of miles. To preserve their energy, they fly at higher altitudes where the air is cooler. This prevents them from overheating and dehydrating. Most ducks fly at heights of around 200 to 4000 feet. Some species are known to fly much higher. Reports of airplanes hitting Mallard or Ruddy Shelducks as high as 20,000 feet have been reported.

Migrating ducks can fly more than 2000 miles from home. Some species cover distances of over 500 miles per day without stopping. To keep airborne, a duck needs to flap almost continuously, unlike other species that can glide for long distances.

Ducks fly at speeds of 40 to 60 miles per hour, with an average of around 50 miles per hour. The record holder for the fastest speed is the Red-breasted Merganser that has been recorded via satellite, flying at speeds of 100 miles per hour.

Final thoughts

Your happy ducks won’t fly away. Choose non-flying domesticated breeds. Ensure that they have safe comfortable housing, food, fresh water, treats, roaming space, and loads of attention and they are sure to stay on your farmstead.


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

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