What Is the Life Cycle of a Duck?

Mike’s Birds/CC-BY-SA 2.0

The life cycle of a duck includes nesting, brood rearing, post-breeding, molting, fall migration, winter migration, spring migration and pre-nesting. These cycles occur yearly until death, with most domestic ducks living no more than seven years.

Ducks look for their mates in the fall and are usually part of an established pair by winter. The relationship is monogamous for the season. During the nesting phase, ducks look for a safe place to make a nest. The nest is a small hollow in the ground usually surrounded by tall grass and close to water. The female duck lines it with down, and then lays eight to 10 eggs and incubates them until they hatch in about a month.

During the brood-rearing and post-breeding stages, the mother must keep her ducklings warm, provide them with food, and protect them from predators. The molting stage is where old feathers are replaced by new ones, a process that occurs in the late summer and early spring. During the fall, winter and spring they migrate by flying to milder climates, more plentiful food sources and better breeding grounds.

The female duck chooses the breeding area, a process called pre-nesting, which is usually a place she knows well. Then, the cycle begins again.