Trimming Duck’s Wings

Have you ever wandered into the farmyard and asked yourself, “Why doesn’t the duck simply fly away?”

There are three answers:

  1. He does, sometimes. As you can see here in an older post.

  2. He seasonally has wing feathers trimmed to help keep him down on the ground.

  3. At nearly 11 pounds, he’s a little bit too chubby to really get off the ground.


In the early spring and fall, Ducky molts (loses) his old feathers and grows a nice new set in. This would prepare him for long, seasonal migration flights, if he were a wild duck. These young feathers, called ‘blood’ or ‘pin’ feathers, have a great blood supply and birds need to be handled carefully when they’re coming in. Once the pin feathers grow out completely into flight feathers, we can safely trim them back to keep our duck grounded.

Keeper Kent holds Ducky snugly with Duck’s feet tucked into his arm to keep Katy safe from his claws. Kent is also extending Duck’s right wing in this photo
Duck wing extended
Keeper Katy extends Duck’s left wing and counts the feathers to be trimmed. 
Katy trims feathers
With rounded bandage scissors, Keeper Katy starts to trim away feathers
more feathers trimmed
You can see the small gap the missing feathers are creating in Duck’s wing, this is what stops him from flying.
weighing ducky
Kent and Katy place Ducky down onto a scale for weighing. The rubber bowl gives his feet traction so he doesn’t slide off the metal scale.
sitting duck
Trimming feathers might look a little rough, but it doesn’t seem to bother our duck very much.

2 responses to Trimming Duck’s Wings

  1. Sarah says:

    Yes, Bette, we do trim both wings. If we only did one wing, our duck would be very off balance if he were to hop up onto a higher surface and try to flutter back down to the ground. With only one wing trimmed, he might spin or crash to the ground, but with both done, it takes him only 2 or 3 attempts before he figures out how to descend from higher ground safely.

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