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Can Ducks Change Their Spots?

Stylish dressers, ducks like to stay looking good by shedding their old feathers once or twice a year and replacing them with a shiny new set. Luckily they don't all drop off overnight leaving the duck completely bald! The feathers start to come out first from the back of the neck, working across the back and finishing at the bottom. The whole process takes up to 6 weeks.

Female ducks only moult once a year to coincide with when they have (or would have) ducklings. By the time the young are ready to fly the mother will have a new set of feathers. Ducklings have their first set of feathers by 6-7 weeks old and these are called juvenile feathers. At this stage both sexes look similar. Very soon after this they start to moult again, getting proper coloured feathers

Male ducks change their look twice a year so you could say they have a summer and a winter wardrobe. During the mating season when they need to look their best to stand a chance with the lady ducks their plumage is colourful. After this season (at the end of the summer) they have what is called an eclipse moult when they replace their summer finery with subtle, more camouflaged winter plumage that looks similar to the female. This drab plumage stays until the beginning of the year when they have their nuptial moult, changing them once again into the smart duck every female duck desires. Throughout the year they will have kept the same wing feathers so they they can fly all year round and are less at risk to predators.

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Comments

Munchkinandme, 20 March 2014

The info regarding the male moult is very misleading. (I find!) The drake- male duck - will completely lose its flight feathers when it is molting from eclipse back to its nuptial plumage after the summer season - . It takes about 8 weeks for the bird to grow it's new flight feathers. During this period, therefore - once the 'drab' coloured drakes have shed all their flight feathers and before the new ones have grown- the duck is completely flightless - hence nature's giving it the benefit of a more camoflagued state to help protect from predators. It is important that duck owners know this and provide adequate protection. Also, ensure good clean fresh bathing water to support their birds' needs... the wings will be very sensitive when the heavy blood filled quills of the new feathers are growing in, the ducks will enjoy a good wing beating session in the water to help support good growth/ condition and muscle tone for the newly feathering wings.

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