Can Ducks Play Dead? The Surprising Truth!

I was astonished when I saw the wooden duck extending its head, opening its eyes, and remaining fixed in the ground as if it was completely dead. Then, I found it getting up and running after its young as if nothing had happened!

It is clear that this duck was under threat from a predator and that it used a play to pretend to be dead to trick the predator into turning away from it. Indeed, the duck succeeded in that and escaped a certain death experience.

Indeed, the world of ducks is deep and wondrous, and we still discover strange things about it every day. Those cute, weak birds that appear to have limited capabilities, it turns out, have strange defense mechanisms that we do not see in many birds and animals.

Although ducks move slowly and do not have a great ability to run and jump to escape from predators, they have amazing capabilities that help them protect themselves.

Let’s talk more in the following lines about the behavior of feigning death in ducks, how they do it, and what types of ducks are famous for this behavior.

Can Ducks Play Dead?

The Duck Is Playing Dead.

Yes, ducks are among the famous beings that play dead. It is a form of self-defense and occurs in a variety of duck species pretending to be dead to defend themselves and survive.

It does not only occur in ducks but has also been seen in some types of chicken and quail. It is also a well-known behavior in some other animals.

Thanatosis is a defensive measure made by several birds and animals in an attempt to survive, by making the predator lose interest and find an opportunity to escape.

Some animals and birds slow their heart rate and respiration to pretend they are dead as a way to fool predators. Therefore, it is an adaptive behavior used as a survival and defense mechanism.

Ducks and most animals make thanatosis in the hope that their predators do not care about them. Still, survival is not the only reason why animals perform this behavior, as this behavior may occur for other reasons, such as aggressive mimicry.

How Do Ducks Play Dead?

Duck is pretending to be dead

Ducks are threatened by many predators. Unfortunately, ducks’ ability to defend themselves may be limited to other animals and birds, as their movement is slow, and most types of ducks cannot jump and fly high. Instead, it has the amazing ability to protect itself from predators by pretending to be dead.

When facing imminent death, some ducks will stop moving just as if they were dead.

 Ducks appear lifeless and may emit an odor resembling decaying flesh. Where ducks display a typical appearance in which they pretend to be dead just as if they were dead. Movements that a duck makes to appear dead include:

  1. Extend the head to the maximum
  2. Eyes open
  3. The wings are tightly attached to the body.

What Types Of Ducks Play Dead?

There are so many species of ducks that play dead. Researchers have recorded that 29 out of 50 wild ducks of different species play dead when attacked by red foxes.

Some of the most well-known duck species that prey upon perceived dangers are the North American mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and wood duck (Aix aureus).

To What Extent Does Playing Duck Dead Help?

This instant collapse when the duck plays dead gives the duck at least a chance to fight back and escape if the anestrus lowers its guard. Playing dead by ducks works well especially if the foxes are young and don’t have much experience with ducklings.

Unfortunately, the older foxes have previous experience with what ducks do, as they know very well that some ducks pretend to be dead until they can escape. Therefore, the foxes kill the ducks first before anything, to ensure that they do not escape later!

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Doaa Salah
The shy one (too shy to put her photo) and the only girl in our team! Doaa is a veterinarian who is passionate about writing content. She knows a lot about animals and birds, as she has been studying them for many years now. Her goal? She is researching and learning to convey to you all the knowledge she have and what's new about farming.