Nothing is more adorable than the site of a line of fuzzy ducklings waddling after their mother. There’s more to these waterfowl than just being picturesque. One day these little fuzzballs will grow into a bird that bears almost no resemblance to its juvenile appearance. What happens from the time they leave the egg until they are able to fly? Here are a few facts about ducklings.
9 Facts about ducklings
1. Ducklings can swim almost right away
Ducklings spend only a day in the nest before they are following their mothers into the water. They are also able to feed themselves almost right away. Their mother will direct them towards food that is safe to eat. They are part of a group of birds known as precocial. This means when they hatch they are already well developed. This group also includes chickens and geese.
2. Ducklings are born with down
Many birds are born without any feathers. Ducklings have a layer of down when they hatch. The down insulates them and keeps them warm when they are out of the water, so they do not require as much care from their mothers. This down is not waterproof but preening from their mother gives them a light coating of oil to help keep them afloat.
3. Ducklings walk in groups for protection
Newly hatched ducklings are easy prey for predators like snakes, fish, and frogs. For this reason, they stay close to each other and to their mothers when they are walking or swimming. If they can make it past the first 10 days their chances of survival improve.
4. Juvenile ducks are able to fly at around 3 months old
Ducklings will grow feathers over their down by about 5 weeks old. This signals that they are almost fully grown. At around 5 months they will “fledge” or be able to fly. At this point, they will be ready to be independent.
5. Ducklings can see before they hear
Ducks quickly learn to recognize their mother’s call. The auditory system in most birds develops before vision. They will eventually develop visual recognition as well.
6. Ducklings are born without blood vessels or nerves in their feet
This is an important part of duck anatomy. The lack of nerves and blood vessels means that they do not feel the cold on their feet, and can tolerate low temperatures.
7. Ducklings spend 60% of their day eating
Ducklings spend most of their day eating insects and other sources of protein. Since ducklings grow and develop so quickly, they need to consume large amounts of protein to support the feathers and other body systems.
8. Yellow ducklings only come from white ducks
Though they may be the image that comes to mind when you picture ducklings, duckling with yellow dow are the exception, not the rule. Once they mature and grow feathers, these ducks will be white. Species such as the Pekin, and the Indian runner-duck, start as yellow ducklings.
9. Female ducklings are noisier
Female ducks have distinct quacks and tend to be louder and more active than males. This is often how females are differentiated from males by non-experts when they are too young to have distinctive coloring.