Can Ducks Change Gender? 5 Interesting Facts

Ducks are fascinating creatures compared to mammals and other birds.  These birds can change their gender, specifically from female to male. The gender change in ducks usually occurs when a female duck loses her ovary, primarily due to infections or injuries.

The female duck will gradually turn into a male upon losing her ovaries. During this transitioning process, the female duck will experience hormonal changes and later develop physical changes present in male ducks.

How do Ducks Change Their Gender?

A female duck can change its sex from female to male, which is a lengthy process that doesn’t occur overnight. Many duck owners don’t understand how these birds change their gender. Here is an explanation detailing how ducks change their sex from female to male.

– Ovary Failure

Unlike mammals, female ducks have a single ovary, meaning all their eggs are in a single basket. The loss of an ovary means your female duck can’t release estrogen, the female hormone that combats the male genes in female ducks due to ovary failure.

– Male Plumage

Your female duck will grow male plumage due to hormonal changes that come with ovary loss. Male plumage growth doesn’t occur immediately after the female duck loses her ovary. The plumage growth can take place in months or even a year. However, it depends on the duck species and the situation of the female duck.

– Growth of Male Sexual Organs

Due to the absence of estrogen after the loss of an ovary, the female duck will start developing male sexual organs. For instance, the vestigial ovary masculinize develops into a testis. The sperms in the testis are fertile, indicating that your duck can successfully fertilize the eggs of a female duck.

Why do Ducks Change Gender?

Ducks can change gender due to various reasons and depending on the situation of these birds. A female duck will have a high chance of changing its gender if it’s at an increased risk of losing its only functional ovary. Gender change can also occur because of ovary problems that result from injuries and infections.

Hormonal imbalances make female ducks susceptible to gender change.  Naturally, all ducks have a default male gender at the time of hatching. That means female ducks also produce a limited amount of male hormone, testosterone.

Nonetheless, females are capable of keeping the male hormone at bay when their ovaries are functional. Females with weak or undeveloped ovaries can’t successfully counter the testosterone. Consequently, they have too much testosterone in their bodies, which makes them vulnerable to gender change.

Only Mallard Ducks Change Their Gender?

No, not Mallards ducks only can change their gender. Gender change can occur in all types of duck species. All duck species have a single ovary, meaning they have a possibility of changing their gender if the ovary isn’t functional.

Mallards are popular duck species. Most duck owners keep these ducks in their homes, allowing them to witness their birds changing gender. Hence, such duck owners have a misconception that only mallards can change their gender.

In reality, however, these ducks are equally like other duck species that can experience gender change. Here are different duck species that are all capable of changing their sex from female to male.

  • Dabbling duck
  • Eider
  • Goldeneye
  • Merganser
  • Scoter

How Long Does it Take for  Ducks to Change Gender?

Although ducks change their gender, the process of changing gender is long. There isn’t a definite time duration when a duck can change its gender. It might take years to notice that your female duck is male since ducks can live between two and 12 years.

The hormonal changes that make ducks change their gender is a lengthy process. Some duck species, such as mallards, can take a shorter time to change their gender. It takes time to notice the apparent male traits in female ducks following gender change, even among these ducks.

There are some tell signs that your female ducks are transitioning into males. These signs include:

– Size

Female ducks have smaller heads, thinner necks compared to males. If you notice your female duck’s head is becoming bigger, its neck growing thicker, and its overall size becoming bigger, then your duck is slowly evolving into a male duck.

– Sound

Sound changes are also a clear sign of gender change in ducks. Females have loud and harder quacks. Males have rough and soft quacks. If your female duck starts quacking softly, it indicates the duck is changing into a male duck.

– Behavior

Behavior changes are some of the most evident signs of gender changes in ducks. Females and males have distinct behavioral traits. Male ducks are more aggressive than females, for instance.

If your female duck is exhibiting aggression, then it shows it could be slowly picking the behavioral traits of a male duck due to a possible gender change.

– Physical Traits

Most people can tell of a gender change in their ducks simply by observing the change in physical traits in their ducks. Males are more flashy and colorful compared to females. Your female duck could be turning to a male if it starts appearing more dazzling and bright.

Furthermore, males have curled feathers near their tails. On the contrary, females don’t have noticeable curled feathers near their tails. If your female duck develops curled feathers near its tail, it indicates that it could be turning into a male.

Can a Male Duck Turn Into Female?

No, male ducks don’t turn into females. The dominant sex in ducks of all species at the time of hatching is male. Don’t expect your male duck to turn into a female. Furthermore, males don’t have ovaries, unlike females.

Therefore, males can’t experience gender change due to hormonal changes that make females experience gender change. For males, the possible thing that can happen to these ducks is losing their fertility due to injuries and infections. In this case, the male won’t successfully fertilize the eggs of a female.


Indeed ducks can change their gender. Gender change is common in ducks of all species. Nonetheless, only female ducks are capable of experiencing gender change.

Furthermore, gender change in female ducks is rare since it doesn’t automatically mean all female ducks will lose their ovaries at some point.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

Questions and Answers

When you say the ducks change gender do you mean they change gender appearance and manners or become a fertile male?

Michelle Young July 9, 2022 Reply

We have a male that changed to a female it was a full blown male mallard and I had never heard of this in my life but we was researching it and low and behold from a male mallard to a female lost his curl above his tale he changed his quacks and he had mated with my female before she died from a owl attack

Tracey J Phillips August 28, 2022 Reply

It’s very co to read this article, to know that I’m not crazy!! I have a female mallard duck an it’s only about 5 months old an she is transforming into a male , I really thought that I was seeing things but I’ve been taking pictures an comparing them. Thank you for the good information.

Olivia Jensen September 27, 2022 Reply

I got 2 welsh harlequin ducklings this spring and they had gotten there feathers and where definitely females, very friendly and not shy at all ! But one day one of them stopped walking they had a sore on there foot so after 2 weeks of me caring for it she was all better. One of them even laid an egg! It was squishy and my 7 year old son and I couldn’t help but laughing about how funny this soft egg was- while we where laughing over it the two ducks had been standing next to us staring at us then started there quaking and walked off, we felt like we had upset them cause from then on they didn’t let us pick them up and then they started changing there heads started getting dark and after a week or 2 they where definitely green headed drakes! We where so confused until someone told our neighbor that ducks can change gender. Thought I would share!

While this article says that males ducks can’t change to female, I have seen it happen with my own eyes as both my male mallards feathers changes to the standard female colors.

    This is quite impressive! I’ve not seen something like this before. Also, I’ve done a lot of research, but didn’t find anyone confirming that ducks can change gender.

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