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Why Do Ducks Flap Their Wings? What It Means and What to Look For

Ducks are birds, so it is expected to see them flapping their wings throughout the day. In fact, it is such a common occurrence that most people don’t even pay attention to the curious duck’s actions. They do not just do it to do it, though. So, why do ducks flap their wings?

Ducks flap their wings for a couple of different reasons. They will flap their wings during mating season to attract females and warn other males to stay away. If they are backyard-raised ducks, they will flap to get attention. So, it is safe to say that ducks flap their wings to stand out in a crowd.

Flapping wings is not something an average person would even pay attention to. However, like every other type of body language that they throw off, flapping the wings in different ways is a form of communication. Let’s check this out a little further.

Why Do Ducks Flap Their Wings But Not Fly?

When wings flap and you are close to the duck, it will give you a start. If you get too close to something they are trying to protect, like their nest, a flap of the wings will come before they charge after you. It is a way to get your attention, which is what the flapping of the wings is all about. The more you ignore them, the more they will flap at you until they get what they want.

Here are some common reasons for ducks flapping their wings:

  • To warn other males
  • To attract females (showing off)
  • To scare away predators or threats
  • To dry them off

Every reason on the list, except one, circles around the idea of gaining the attention of the person or animal within its range. The one reason not related to making themselves the center of attention is when they are drying their wings off to ensure that the cool water does not bring their body temperature down too much.

Check out these Duck Feeders and Duck Pellets found on Amazon, along with a couple Toys for Ducks and you’ll have some very happy ducks. And happy ducks make for better tasting eggs.

What Does It Mean When My Ducks Flap Their Wings?

The meaning behind the flapping wings can be different in every situation and with every specific duck species.

Nine out of ten times, it is a display to grab attention. It may be an act of supremacy meant to catch the female or a warning to other males or predators, including you if approaching too close to them.

The apparent reasons may not be the whole reason behind the action, though. If they have grown up around you, they may just want to get some attention from you. They are sometimes needy and love to be spoiled and cuddled.

After all, a duck that has been around you their entire lives will look up to you as their parent. A good parent guides them to safety and chases away the unwanted fox from down the street. They are your ducks, so it is up to you to keep an eye on their behavior.

Here’s a video of a duck flapping his wings whenever he sees his best friend:

What to Look For When Ducks Flap Their Wings

When you notice a duck flapping its wings more than usual, it may signify something wrong. They have no way of communicating with you except for body language and some hissing to get your attention. From there, it is up to you to analyze the situation and find a reason.

Here are some things to look for to determine why a duck is flapping its wings:

  • Fast, minor twitching kept close to their bodies is usually a sign of wanting some attention, maybe from their mate or their lead duck (which is you if it is a tame duck).
  • If you try to feed them moldy food, the duck will protest by flapping its wings at you. They have very sensitive stomachs and, most of the time will know when food is OK to eat or when it would be toxic to them.
  • The weather can make any duck flap its wings. If they get too hot, they will flap to release some of their body temperatures, and if it is cold out, the bird will flap their wings to build up heat that it can trap under its wings, between it and the body.
  • The duck may be trying to fly. If it is trying to get airborne but has a problem, it will flap its wings, hoping to gain flight. Look for damaged wings or injuries that could have been caused by a predator or another duck.
  • The duck may be sick if the flapping is more like a flutter. It could be having a seizure, or it could have caught a cold from you. Either way, a wing flutter needs to be checked out because, most of the time, it is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
  • Another thing you need to look for when a duck constantly flaps its wings is an injury. There are people out there who love to shoot and terrorize animals, and there are vehicles everywhere that could hit them. Take a good look at them if the flapping is not usual, and fix any injuries you find.
  • If a duck is extremely happy, it will flap its wings. This is the last option here because it is the last thing you want to assume. If you have checked everything out and nothing fits, it could just be a case of happiness that makes the bird gitty.

When ducks flap their wings more than usual (source), you will need to take a closer look at the situation and find the problem. It could be something simple like giving them a scratch on the head or an injury that needs immediate attention.


You never want to ignore the body language that the ducks are giving off. It is the only way they know how to get your attention, so they will do what they must do. Flapping wings can mean a number of things, but it all comes down to attention.

The duck wants to get the attention of whatever, or whoever, they have in their sights. It is essential to know your herd so you can tell when something is off. This takes time, patience, and your ability to sit outside in the weather to increase the bond that you should already have with your ducks.

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