Male vs. Female Ducks (8 Main Differences)

Male vs. female duck

Male and female ducks often look quite similar, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. However, several subtle and obvious differences can help identify a duck’s gender.

There are major distinctions between male and female ducks. Males have more colorful plumage, sport curled tail feathers, are broad-billed, and quack softer. Meanwhile, female ducks have duller plumage and straight tail feathers, are curvy-billed, more active, lay eggs, and quack louder.

These differences become more apparent as you learn more about these aquatic birds, creating a striking image of nature’s complexity. So, read on as we explore the fascinating differences between male and female ducks.

Summary of Male vs. Female Ducks

Male DucksFemale Ducks
20–26 inches
20–23 inches
Average 1.6–3.5 pounds, can weigh up to 15 pounds
Average 1.6–3.5 pounds, can weigh up to 7 pounds
Brighter and more colorful
Duller, grow feathers earlier
Physical Features:
Curled tail feathers with a straight, broad bill
Physical Features:
Lacks curled tail feathers with a slim, curvy bill
More territorial during mating season
More active, lays eggs
Quieter, softer quack
Louder quack

8 Differences Between a Male and Female Duck

Several differences between male and female ducks are visible upon closer inspection.

From their size and coloration to their behaviors and vocalizations, male and female ducks exhibit various differences that set them apart.

This section explores eight key differences that characterize the sex differences among ducks.

1. Appearance

Male and female ducks getting a morning soak

Ducks are sexually dimorphic, which means that the males and females have distinct characteristics. Male ducks, commonly known as drakes, often stand out with their vibrant plumages.

Male Mallards, for instance, have glossy green heads paired with bright yellow bills, while their bodies are covered with shades of brown, gray, and black.

In contrast, female Mallards have a subtler appearance. They feature an orange and brown bill, and their feathers lean towards brownish or mottled brown shades, helping them camouflage during nesting.

However, not all ducks fit this mold. Some breeds, like the Pekin ducks, blur these distinctions with their all-white plumage, making it a challenge to tell the duck’s gender just by looking.

2. Size

Male and female ducks size difference

When observing ducks, their size can often hint at their gender. Depending on the breed, they usually weigh between 1.6 and 3.5 pounds, but males tend to grow a bit bigger, with some weighing up to 15 pounds.

Moreover, male ducks typically stand taller, measuring around 20 to 26 inches in height. On the other hand, hens are slightly shorter, standing at about 20 to 23 inches.

However, this difference in size isn’t always noticeable unless you’re comparing two ducks of the same breed side by side.

3. Behavior

Male and female ducks swimming in the ice cold water

When it comes to behavior, male and female ducks are also quite distinct from each other. Drakes tend to get more aggressive in certain seasons, particularly during the breeding season.

The head bobbing and tail wagging that are part of their mating rituals are not only fascinating to watch but also serve as signals to potential mates.

Meanwhile, hens have a different set of behavioral cues. They’re typically more vocal, producing loud quacks or chattering sounds.

Beyond sounds, hens also exhibit nurturing tendencies. When the nesting season approaches, they diligently collect soft materials like grass and feathers to build the perfect nest for hatching their eggs.

4. Vent Sexing

Male and female ducks looking at each other

Vent sexing, often simply called vent checking, is a reliable method used to determine the gender of ducks, especially when other physical characteristics aren’t distinct.

This process involves examining a duck’s vent, or cloaca, to show its sexual organs.

Ducks’ reproductive organs are inside their bodies; vent checking makes it possible to roll a duck over and turn its vent outward so you can see the organs more clearly.

When done correctly, you can identify the gender of the duck by looking for the presence or absence of a drake’s penis, which resembles a small, light-colored worm.

While vent checking is a reliable way to differentiate between male and female ducks, it’s not without risks.

Attempting to make a distinction based on the plumbing takes a little more expertise. If done incorrectly, it may injure the duck. Hence, checking a duck’s vent to determine gender is best left to the vet.

Here’s a video demonstration of how to perform a vent check on ducks:

How to vent sex Ducks and Geese when they're young!

5. Bill

Male and female ducks swimming in the pond

You can learn a lot about a duck’s sex by closely examining its bill. In certain duck species, the color and pattern of the bill can vary between males and females.

For instance, some types of hens have orange or brown bills, whereas some male ducks tend to have green-colored bills. These distinctions can become more noticeable as ducks mature.

However, these visual cues are not consistent across all breeds. Certain species of ducks have more pronounced bill differences than others.

These include Muscovy ducks, Khaki Campbells, Welsh Harlequins, Rouens, Fawn Runners, and Indian Runners.

When comparing male and female Muscovy ducks, you’ll observe that the males have notably straighter, wider, and flatter beaks.

Understanding the subtle differences in bill appearance requires research into specific duck breeds. Remember, while the bill can provide clues, it’s just one of many features to consider when determining a duck’s gender.

6. Coloration

Two ducks sitting near the pond

Ducks are a diverse group, with some breeds showing significant color differences between males and females that extend beyond the overall color of their plumage.

Compared to female ducks, male ducks typically have more vivid and glossy coloration, particularly on certain parts of their bodies.

For instance, their heads might sport bright hues, such as the iconic green head of a male mallard, which contrasts sharply with the more muted tones of their female counterparts.

Moreover, some male ducks have distinct color patterns on their wings, which can be iridescent and more pronounced than those on females.

On the other hand, some female ducks may have bills and feet with colors that are distinct from those of males, usually appearing less vibrant or even freckled.

7. Feathers

Male and female ducks flying

Observing their feathers is the easiest way to tell the difference between male and female ducks. Drakes tend to have more vibrant plumage and grow feathers later than hens.

When looking at the mallard breed, for instance, the males’ rich chocolate brown breasts, white collars around their necks, and dark green feathered heads stand out sharply from the females’ brownish and gray colors.

After mating season, however, males molt and lose their flashy coloring, making them look like females.

Another tell-tale sign of male ducks is the curled feathers in their tails, called drake feathers. This feather is not usually found in females, making it one of the clearest visual differences between the two genders.

8. Quacking Sounds

Male and female ducks looking in different directions

In cases where male and female ducks look alike, listening to their vocalizations or quacking noises can be helpful in sexing them.

Under six weeks old, male and female ducklings sound very similar to one another. However, female ducks’ quacks become louder and more persistent as they mature.

These quacks can be sharp and clear. Hens make these sounds to alert or communicate with their ducklings. On the other hand, male ducks produce a softer, raspier sound that’s more subdued.

This difference in vocalization is a result of their distinct roles in nature. While volunteering at a local duck sanctuary, I was able to see these differences in person.

I noticed that male ducks seemed to be more reserved, whereas females were very loud and protective.

While females use their quacks to communicate and protect, males tend to be quieter, focusing on courting and defending their territory.

So, the next time you hear a duck quacking, listen closely; the sound might just reveal its gender!

Frequently Asked Questions

Male and female ducks standing on cement wall

Are Male or Female Ducks Friendlier?

A duck’s behavior largely depends on factors like breed, upbringing, and individual personality rather than whether they’re male or female.

While some claim that drakes are friendlier and less likely to peck, others claim that hens are more sociable. That said, keep in mind that during mating season, males can become more aggressive.

What Color Are Female Ducks?

Generally, female ducks have duller plumage compared to their male counterparts. They often sport brown feathers that are mottled, which helps them blend in with their surroundings when they are nesting.

Why Do Male Ducks Have Curled Tail Feathers?

Interestingly, the presence of curly tail feathers in male domestic ducks can be traced back to their Mallard ancestors. Since most domestic duck breeds originated from the Mallard, this trait is now found in nearly all of them.

While the exact evolutionary reason for this feather remains a topic of debate, it’s believed to result from sexual selection.

Over generations, as females consistently chose mates displaying this feature, it became more common among certain duck populations.

So, do you now know how to tell if a duck is male or female? Let us know your insights by sharing them in the comment section below.

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