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Why Do Ducks Pant? What To Do and What to Look For

A panting duck is not something you expect to see on an average day, but it can happen. It will often look more like they are gasping for air or perhaps walking around with their mouths wide open. Both are signs of a panting duck, so why do ducks pant?

Overheating is the top cause of a panting duck, but it can also point to the duck being sick or overly stressed. Ducks are similar to other animals in relieving heat or stress. Birds do not sweat, so panting is the only way they have to cool down.

A panting duck may seem like something funny to giggle at, but it is actually a serious action that needs to be rectified as soon as possible. If it is a sickness or excessive heat, the duck could die before you have time to react. Let’s dig into this a little deeper to obtain a better understanding.

What Does It Mean When Ducks Pant?

Ducks are birds that do not have sweat glands. Their wings and the water that ducks love help keep their bodies regulated. They have many of the same reactions and ways of communicating with their owners as other pets.

A duck panting is trying to help itself while showing you that something is wrong in its world:

  • Heat Exhaustion – Ducks prefer colder temperatures, so they are very prone to heat stroke in high temperatures. Common side effects will be panting, excessive water intake, and drooping wings.
  • Stuffy Sinuses – It is not uncommon for a duck to get a stuffy nose, whether sick or just from basic drainage. Just like when it happens to you, it makes breathing hard for them, causing the duck to pant.
  • Stress – Humans are not the only critters on the planet that have to deal with stress. Withdrawal and lack of energy are two main signs, as are panting and depression.
  • Sickness – Living outside in the weather can cause your duck to become sick with a cold or flu. This will create a bird that will pant and act out a dramatic scene (much like a sick child).
  • Overfeeding – You have undoubtedly heard that a bird’s digestive system cannot process food quickly because everything is swallowed whole, taking longer to digest. If you are overfeeding your duck, it will pant because they have an upset stomach.
  • Choking – As mentioned, ducks swallow their food whole, which makes it easy for them to choke when they try to ingest something too big.

A panting duck is a sight you must take seriously because it is a sure sign of something wrong. Most of the time, throwing the duck into some water, or taking it into a cooler area, will do the trick. If not, check for the other problems listed until you discover the root cause. Then, you can take steps to fix it.

Here’s a video example of what it can look like when ducks are panting:

How Can You Tell If a Duck Is Too Hot?

A hot duck will show signs of being in distress in specific ways. Take the time to observe your flock. Their everyday patterns will become apparent, so if anything disrupts that routine, you will know immediately.

If something seems amiss, look for one, or all, of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lifting wings up and down constantly
  • Standing in place for extended periods
  • Abnormal behaviors

An overheated duck will do what it can to try and cool itself off. Panting is one way that animals, including ducks, use to cool off. They will also flap their wings because they are designed to help with internal temperature control.

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.

Why Is My Duck Breathing with Mouth Open?

If your duck is breathing with its mouth open, there could be a couple of different reasons that could contribute to the behavior.

Heat Exhaustion

The most common, once again, is heat exhaustion. Marcos H. Rostagano (source), a research animal scientist from the Livestock Behavior Research Unit, explains that the average body temperature of a duck is higher than other animals, which makes them overheat very quickly.


Sickness is the second reason your duck will walk around with its mouth open. They do not get sick often, but their nose will plug up when they acquire a respiratory infection.

This means that the only way that they can breathe is with their mouths open. They have ways to help themselves, but you may want to have them checked out by a vet to ensure it is nothing serious.

How to Prevent Ducks from Overheating

Ducks have been alive for decades in the wild, so just because your flock is tame and used to being taken care of does not mean that they have forgotten how to survive.

They have some easy ways to help adjust their body temperatures, which is part of their survival instincts:

  • Water – Ducks will use cool water to help get their temperatures down.
  • Wings – The wings are designed to trap their body heat, so your ducks will raise their wings at random intervals to remove some of the excessive heat.
  • Cool Place – Move the ducks to a cooler place. Maybe a shed with good circulation that has a couple of fans blowing to move the air around.
  • Ice Pack – If your bird is in severe distress, place some ice packs under its wings for up to 10 minutes.

If you give your ducks ways to keep themselves cool, they will take advantage of it when needed. It is absolutely required of you to keep cool water in a tub, or small pool, if you do not have a duck pond for them. Keeping wet and cool will keep your ducks from panting at you whenever you come around.


Ducks pant when something is wrong. It is imperative that you pay attention to your animals because when there is a problem, even though they cannot tell you, they will show some obvious signs. Unfortunately, those signs can be attributed to several different things, so you must investigate the situation.

Overheating is the main issue you will deal with in the summer months, but your ducks will know how to take care of the issue if you keep cool water available and a place to cool off from the sun. If they start panting at you, take the time to figure out the problem and devise a solution to fix it.

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