If you’ve seen toddling ducks on a farm, you might have never seen them fly. But with old Nintendo games like Duck Hunt, you might be suspicious that this isn’t the case with all ducks—and you’d absolutely be right.

Some ducks can fly, others can glide—it just depends on the breed. Most wild ducks can fly, while domesticated ducks cannot. Let’s learn more about the flight capabilities of our feathered friends.


A Little About Ducks

ducks pair_nimmersatt_Shutterstock
Image Credit: nimmersatt, Shutterstock

Ducks are widespread birds that live on every continent except Antarctica. You’re probably very familiar with some species of duck, as many likely visit your area as the seasons change.

Ducks are smaller than geese and swans, making them the smallest waterfowl. They tend to have heavy bodies, making it necessary to flap their wings faster to stay in flight. Some ducks are more efficient flyers than others.

A young duck cannot fly until they are fully feathered, which usually happens within five to eight weeks. After they mature, they will be able to keep up with the adults and migrate with them in the fall months.

Types of Ducks

Ducks are a group of waterfowl comprised of 12 different categories:

Dabbling duck
  • Varieties: 43 species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
Diving duck
  • Varieties: 20+ species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
Whistling duck
  • Varieties: Eight species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: Three species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: Three species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: 50+ species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
Perching duck
  • Varieties: 14 species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: Three species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
Sea duck
  • Varieties: 15 species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: Five species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
  • Varieties: 20 species
  • Flight Capability: Yes
Domestic duck
  • Varieties: 120+ species
  • Flight Capability: No

Each group has different species and subspecies, all having various behaviors and migration patterns.


How Fast Can Ducks Fly?

Mallard duck flying at speed
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Most waterfowl species can fly at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, but the average is around 50. For instance, mallards can travel roughly 800 miles in 8 hours.

The fastest duck ever recorded was a red-breasted merganser that flew a top speed of 100 miles per hour when flying next to an airplane.

Some slower species include the blue-winged and green-winged teals. These ducks are among the slowest, reaching speeds of about 30 miles per hour.

How Far Can Ducks Fly?

Sometimes, ducks will engage in a large group of migration called the grand passage. However, ducks often travel in smaller groups as well.

Some ducks fly non-stop during migration, but none more than the black brant. These waterfowl routinely travel from coastal Alaska to Baja, California, during wintering months. This journey is slightly more than 3,000 miles, taking the ducks under 72 hours to complete.

The majority of ducks only travel a distance of 750 miles during migration.


How Long Can Ducks Fly?

A duck flying in the air
Image Credit: hn2017, Pixabay

As mentioned above, the black brant can fly up to 72 hours at a time, which is extraordinary for waterfowl. Most of the time, ducks can travel eight hours before resting.

During migration, for example, mallard ducks will travel 800 miles in eight hours. In addition to their impressive traveling abilities, they can also withstand great altitudes—typically staying between 200 and 4,000 feet.

However, unless seasonal migration is underway, ducks don’t travel too far in a day.

Ducks migrate due to declining food and water resources areas with harsh winter experiences. As you could suspect, these birds lose much of their body weight during these long journeys. They need lots of time to recuperate.

On average, ducks need three to seven days of rest after such extensive air travel.

Can Farm Ducks Fly?

We’ve all passed farms with adorable ducks waddling around a pond or taking a dip—but have you ever seen them fly? Probably not, as most domestic duck breeds can’t fly. Some ducks can fly to glide short distances but can’t maintain sustainable flight.

You don’t even have to clip their wings as you might with some other domesticated birds. Farm ducks are often far too heavy without the correct wing structure to fly.

This is a serious advantage to keepers, though it can be a real problem if they defend themselves. Domestic ducks really don’t have a lot of protection options, which is why fencing is still so important even though they can’t fly away.



So, now you have a little background on flight patterns for ducks. Each group of wild waterfowl has its own style in migration, appearance, and overall behavior. Some are stronger flyers than others—and some must travel much further. They are each interesting in their own right.

Featured Image Credit: TheOtherKev, Pixabay