Can Ducks Change Gender

As unusual as they may appear, Ducks have particular characteristics and talents that set them apart from other birds.

Besides how they find food and the spectacular vision, you could be surprised to hear it mentioned that ducks could change gender.

Ducks can change gender from female to male, and in rare instances, it is because a female loses one of her ovaries, and as a result, the female duck takes on the appearance of a male duck. Once the ovary is removed, she develops male plumage and behaves like a drake.

In our guide, you can learn more about how can a female duck turn into a male. By the end, you’ll know more about the changes in physical characteristics and which ducks change sexes from female to male birds. (Read Can Ducks See In The Dark)

Ducks Change Gender

Can Birds Change Gender?

Can birds change sex? The answer is yes, but it’s extremely rare in most bird species. Instead, hormonal changes cause female birds’ secondary sex characteristics to transition to male secondary sex characteristics.

Ducks can change gender from female to male. For example, when a female loses one of her ovaries to infection, the female duck starts transitioning into a male duck. You’ll find the ducks’ hormones change first, followed by physical changes such as they develop male plumage and appear to be drake feathers.

You’d assume that sexual characteristics such as a penis, mammary glands, or colorful plumage would show male and female status, but size is everything in sex.

The combination of a giant cell and a small cell, holding half of the usual genetic information from two individuals of the same species, is practically always used for sexual reproduction.

A male is just one who gives birth to the smaller of the two cells, whereas a female gives birth to the larger. However, the genetic control over which an individual delivers the larger and smaller reproductive cells – and the related sexual characteristics – varies significantly between mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects.

Chromosomes determine sex in both mammals and birds. Each cell in the human body contains 23 pairs of these bunched-up DNA bundles, with the last pair, X and Y, determining sex.

The W chromosome induces the development of a female in birds (ZW). Because male characteristics develop without this, the male is the default sex in birds.

Each Autumn, male mandarin ducks develop their amazing orange, green, and red colors to entice their female partners.

The Z chromosome and its “male genes” determine male characteristics. So what stops a female from developing the male’s colorful plumage with a Z chromosome?

Her ovary holds the key. Many birds have only one functioning ovary that produces female hormones like estrogen. For example, the left ovary in ducks is active, while the right ovary is a clump of cells.

Unlike human testosterone, estrogen in birds inhibits the development of female hormones.

Can A Male Duck Have Two Females?

Unexpectedly, a duck’s default gender is male. The default gender is male and female in humans and other mammals, but not in ducks.

Birds have sex chromosomes Z and W, and a W chromosome helps create a female (ZW). The male sex is the default sex in birds (ZZ).

Mammalian and avian chromosomes determine sex, and female ducks have all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak, which explains why they may start changing to males at a female male.

Because there is only a single ovary with no spare, estrogen is not released, stifling the male genes on the Z chromosome. Thus, females adopt colorful feathers of the male plumage in reaction to physical changes.

Although rare, it has been witnessed, such as the case of Tiny Tina becoming Tiny Tim. Other pet ducks also showed this when females stopped laying eggs, and the duck changed sex from female to male.

Also, many bird watchers see such cases when a female, in essence, changes sex to a male sexually when outside the egg-laying season.

The duck change never happens the other way from male to female as the default gender is male. However, in studies, experts discovered that transitioned male ducks could breed and fertilize eggs.

Which duck species change gender?

There have been multiple reports of female to male gender changes in ducks, including mallard and mandarin ducks.

Mallard Ducks


The male mallard gender has a striking green head, a white neckband, and a brilliant yellow beak. Both sides of the drake feather have brown stripes. Female mallards have a drab brown body with white molts. They blend into the backdrop to avoid predators, incredibly when close to the nests in the breeding season. (Read Do Turkeys Mate For Life)

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin ducks are exotic-looking and colorful birds. In contrast, females have a gray head and back, orangey tail feathers, and coppery-streaked cheeks.

The Mandarin Duck has also been observed changing gender. A duck’s Z chromosome regulates male features. So why can’t females develop the male’s colorful plumage every year?

The answer is in their ovaries, where only the left ovary remains and functions. A damaged or unwell duck’s undeveloped right ovary develops in response to male genes on the Z chromosome, which then changes into proper functional testes.

  • Male mallard ducks are brighter than female mallard ducks.
  • In terms of size, males are more significant than females.
  • Males of most species have a prominent drake curl feather near the tail, which females lack.
  • Female ducks have a distinct loud quack, while male ducks have a soft, harsh quack.

During the mating season for ducks, reproduction happens typically by the combination of a large cell and a tiny cell, with each holding half the usual genetic information from two individuals of the same species.

A male is the one that delivers the smaller cells, while a female provides the larger cells.

But the genetic control which individually provides the more significant and the smaller reproductive cells – and the corresponding sexual characteristics – changes significantly between mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects.

Generally, among mammals and birds, it is the chromosomes that determine gender or sex.

Humans have 23 pairs of these bundles of bunched-up DNA in each cell of the body, and the gender is determined by the last pair, which is known as the X and Y.

In a man, there is the existence of a Y chromosome, while a repeating X chromosome (XX) indicates the presence of a woman.

The male sexual characteristics coded for on the Y chromosome cause the creation of testosterone, which suppresses the development of breasts and broader hips. (Read Will Hens Lay Eggs Without A Rooster)

So it can be claimed that female is the default sex in humans.

For ducks, however, this is not the case, and understanding why female ducks might begin to take on a masculine appearance can help understand why they do so.

Birds have two unique sex chromosomes known as Z and W, and the presence of a W chromosome will lead to the development of a female (ZW) (ZW)

Without this, we have the development of male characteristics (ZZ); hence, for birds, the default character is male.

For ducks, the Z chromosome and its genes are responsible for developing their masculine features.

But with, females also possess the Z chromosome, which keeps them from having and exhibiting gorgeous plumage like men.

All birds have a single functioning ovary that pumps female hormones, including estrogen. In ducks, the left ovary operates, whereas the right one is only a small ball of cells.

So with just one functional ovary, female ducks literarily have all their eggs in one basket. When that ovary quits working as a result of infection, sickness, or injury, what happens?

This entirely halts estrogen synthesis, removing the hormone and inhibiting the male genes on the Z chromosome. (Read Crab Apples Poisonous Guide)

As a result, male plumage and traits grow on the female with the season.

Gender of a duck

How can I tell the gender of my duck?

The answer is that it depends on the species of the duck. A baby duck will appear the same regardless of gender, and then they take on the traits we know.

The simplest method to discern the gender of a duck is that if you see a flock of ducks, the ones with brightly colored feathers are the male ducks, while the ones with dull brown feathers are the female ducks.

This is so because, with ducks, the females are the ones that get to choose their partners and who they will mate with.

So the mallard duck gender tends to come out with their brightly colored feathers and display to impress the females during the breeding season.

The females are the ones that get to sit and incubate the eggs, and the male ducks might search for another mate.

Is a duck born male or female?

When a duck is born, the default sex is a male. This is because birds have two unique sex chromosomes known as Z and W, and a W chromosome will lead to the formation of a female. (ZW) The duck change can happen as the birds develop.

Without this, male characteristics (ZZ) develop, and as a result, male characteristics are the default for birds.

Can male ducks lay eggs?

Male ducks cannot lay eggs such as other animals of the male species. This duty is carried out solely by the female. After mating, the males tend to go away and leave the female as the female duck begins to lay and incubate her eggs.

However, in this phase, the male might linger around and try to defend her from predators. He does this by diverting predators away, so they do not assault the female. (Learn How To Get Rid Of Crows)

Do male ducks leave the female?

After mating, male ducks will leave the female to manage for herself. So what occurs is that the female lays and hatch her eggs and incubates her eggs without any help from the male.

She also must often fend off other ducks, animals, and predators all by herself.

Can Ducks Change Gender

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