How Do Ducks Mate?

Ducks are quite fascinating birds. They are friendly, have pleasant personalities, and get along well with humans. But one question that might be lingering in your mind is how ducks mate. Naturally, ducks mate to reproduce just like most animals do.

However, ducks don’t necessarily need a companion or mate of the opposite sex to lead a happy life. As a matter of fact, female ducks are capable of laying eggs without involving drakes.

They only need drakes to fertilize their eggs in preparation for hatching. Drakes play an integral role in reproduction.

In this article, you are going to learn more about how ducks mate, their mating season, mating behavior, factors that influence their mating behavior, and the comparison of their mating to other species of birds.

When is Mating Season for Ducks?

Duck mating is an interesting phenomenon in the world of poultry. For instance, heavier/larger duck breeds start their breeding rituals when aged 20 to 30 weeks. Lighter-weight duck breeds, on the other hand, start mating between 17 and 24 weeks old.

The mating season starts in the months of August and May. This is the time bonding between ducks and drakes becomes a common occurrence. Most wild ducks start their mating behavior in spring all the way to the beginning of the summer season.

That is the time when there is plenty of food for them and more hours of warm temperatures and sunshine to keep them active.

It is during this season that ducks mate between six and eight times a day. But this number varies depending on where the ducks live and the species of ducks under your care. So, at the start of the mating season, the female ducks form a partnership with drakes that seem the healthiest and capable of surviving all seasons.

Their choice of male ducks is almost similar to other animals in the sense that they go for strong drakes to protect them against all other aggressive single ducks.

In case several drakes are living in the same enclosed space, domesticated female ducks will carefully choose who to mate with.

Their way of attracting potential mates remains similar to the wild ducks. Domesticated drakes, however, will most likely create bonds with multiple female ducks throughout the mating season.

Overview of Duck Mating Behavior

Once the mating season kicks in, both drakes and female ducks get ready to mate. The males will always mount the females right from behind.

The male will just line up their sex organs with the female’s oviduct prior to entering and performing the sex action (copulation). The act of copulation in duck species is usually a complicated affair. This act is quite helpful when female ducks are willing to mate with their ideal drakes.

During this mating process, the receptive females will allow drakes to mount them by lifting their tail feathers to allow males to gain better access.

The female ducks will relax their bodies and contract the walls of their oviducts to enable the drakes to have easier penetration. In most instances, the act of copulation is quick because the drake’s sex organ cannot maintain an erection for too long. Often, this action lasts a few seconds.

Below are common signs that your ducks want to mate:

1. Courtship Behavior

Once the drakes are ready to mate with female ducks, they both display certain behavior that is almost universal to all ducks. So, if you are a keen observer, you may notice the following:

Head-bobbing: During the early stages of mating season, both drakes and female ducks display a unique movement. Usually, the ducks bob their heads up and down. The bobbing action happens close to male ducks. Both drakes and female ducks perform this mating ritual as a way of initiating the first step to duck courtship.

Tail-Up: If the mating is taking place in the water, drakes will always tilt their heads down and toward the water. They will also lift their rear slightly above the water levels and into the air. This act of tilting their heads and lifting their behind into the air helps display their brightly colored secondary feathers to attract the nearby female ducks. These hidden colored feathers are unleashed as a strategy to impress and draw the attention of females.

Wing-Flapping: Male ducks are always eager to showcase their beautiful wing feathers in a deliberate attempt to attract females. As such, they periodically lift their bodies to expose their puffed-out chests. They also lift and display their wings to capture the attention of female ducks.

The Grunt Whistle: The male ducks may arch their backs, pull their heads out of the water and emit a loud whistling. This whistle is followed by a grunt as the male ducks get closer to the female ducks.

Swimming Low: Swimming is yet another courtship behavior displayed by male ducks during the duck mating season. This courtship ritual involves swimming low with the head and neck touching the water’s surface. Drakes perform this low swimming to attract female ducks. Mostly, they do this kind of happy-dancing move even after mating is over. On the other hand, female ducks perform this type of maneuver to capture the attention of nearby drakes.

Flat-Backing: The flat-backing mating stance is only done by female ducks. The stance happens shortly after the head-bobbing courtship ritual. During this time, the female ducks will elongate their necks and stretch out their backs to invite suitable drakes to mount them. The nearby drakes will return the favor by climbing on top of the female ducks and standing on their backs. They will then stabilize themselves by grabbing the back of the females’ necks. Within a short time that follows, the females will move their tail feathers out of the way to provide the drakes with better access for penetration.

2. Mating Process

Ducks prefer mating while in water because this is a safer territory than being on land. During the mating process, the drakes will stand on female ducks’ backs and this justifies the reason why mating in water is safer.

However, this process is only successful if both partners are willing to copulate out of mutual interest. In most cases, the mating process takes a few seconds if the female ducks are willing to copulate.

3. Post-mating Behavior

There are always some rituals performed after the mating period. One of these rituals is what is referred to as the sound of success. Often, the sound of success comes in after the mating has been successful.

Both male and female ducks will become vocal to signal a happy ending. Females will make a subtle sound but males will make louder sounds.

Drakes will often whistle or grunt loudly during and even after the mating action.

Factors that Influence Duck Mating Behavior

Several factors are at play during the duck mating season. These factors influence the behavior of both female ducks and drakes.

They include:

  • Environmental Factors: Ducks require a safe and conducive environment to mate successfully.
  • Social Factors: Female ducks need the right drakes to mate with and that is why they have to undergo a rigorous courtship process to make the whole mating process a success.
  • Hormonal and Physiological Processes: Once they are mature enough, ducks get prepared to reproduce. Their hormonal and physiological changes necessitate this entire process.

Comparison of Duck Mating to Other Bird Species

Around 97% of birds have a different way of mating compared to ducks. Ducks fall within the 3% of birds such as ostriches, swans, geese, and emus that possess a penis or phallus. Their females have a vaginal canal to accommodate the male’s sex organ.

So, during the mating process, the drakes use their phallus to penetrate the female ducks’ vaginal canal to fertilize their eggs.

Female ducks, however, are likely to form a relationship or amorous bond with their own gender. They can form this bond and enjoy female-on-female sexual interactions. Take note that this form of interaction does not help in the fertilization of eggs.

Therefore, ducks need drakes to reproduce.

Another interesting fact about ducks is that they are seasonal monogamists. They group themselves in pairs during the breeding season. Once the mating season is over, ducks choose different mates for the following year.

This means that ducks don’t keep the same mate throughout their lives. They just switch partners during every new breeding season.

Both ducks and drakes create close ties during courtship, mating, breeding, and even nesting period. Only the female ducks take up the responsibility of raising the newly-hatched ducklings.

Some drakes are likely to hang around their mates in order to protect them against other aggressive males.


When it comes to mating, ducks display some interesting behavior. Their courtship involves elaborate moves and subtle gestures unique to them.

Usually, their courtship is a series of events that takes approximately one minute if both partners are willing to copulate. These events include head-bobbing, flat-backing, whistle grunts, head-down victory lap, and the sound of success.

Ducks only pair up with their potential partners during the mating season. Thereafter, they form a partnership with new mates when another mating season sets in.

Once the mating is over, bother seasonal bonded drakes and female ducks become great parents to their ducklings.

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

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