Duck Sleuth

Many of you already know that birds molt their feather at least twice a year. In this case I’ll be referring to ducks.

Ducks go through their first molt of the year in early summer. Male ducks molt first. Females molt later, when their ducklings are older.  They pick a safe place to stay, usually a large wetland or pond. Molting is a dangerous time for ducks as much as for other birds. They can’t fly while their new wing feathers are growing in. So, molting ducks spend most of their time hiding in tall grass or floating out in deeper waters. During the first part of the molt, their body feathers fall out and the new feathers grow in, and they’re dull brown blending well with the landscape. This is important, because the wing feathers are about to fall out. For the next three to four weeks, ducks will not be able to fly. They must stay out of sight as possible. The feathers grow fast and once it reaches completion will be ready for flying.

The following photo gallery shows different species at different stages of wing feathers molting. It also explains our question from some photographs I shot of duck with feathers sticking up last year. mystery solved!

© HJ Ruiz – Avian101


16 thoughts on “Duck Sleuth

  1. The molting phase gives birders supreme challenges, especially trying to identify in a new place with new birds. Molting keeps the ducks and the birders on their toes! Great post, HJ, and a good salute to an important phenomenon.

  2. I have noticed that the female ducks on our pond finish growing their feathers after their moult at about the same time as their ducklings are ready to start to fly. Beautifully timed! I like all the shots of moulting ducks – thanks HJ.

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