Duck migration is a learned behavior passed down from offspring to offspring. Ducks and geese migrate in family groups. Other bird species are interesting in that the adults and juveniles will migrate separately. Ducks and geese, however, migrate southbound together in one big happy family. This is when the young ducks learn the route – where to stop, what the landmarks are, what to watch out for. They navigate the way other birds do – using an awareness to the magnetic fields and celestial guidance.
During the winter, duck families split up and go their separate ways. They head north, although many say their patterns are changing. Female ducks will generally go back to where they were born. Male ducks will follow their hen – every year it’s a different hen and a different site. Sorry, ladies, they don’t believe in monogamy. Since geese take longer to mature, they often return as a family during the migration cycles. Male geese, on the other hand, pick a mate on the wintering ground, and they are together for life… until death do us part.
Another duck migration fact: They fly in a variety of formations from takeoff to landing. The flock will stay together during this time. You might have seen or are familiar with the V-shape. Other forms are the line formations, echelons, and J, inverted J and V and W. They truly are very interesting birds to watch not just hunt.
If the temperature drops and there is severe weather, a mass duck migration has been known to occur. November 1995, for example, millions of ducks and geese grounded plane flights in Nebraska and Missouri following a blizzard in the Prairie Pothole Region to the north.
Even though ducks can fly at greater heights, they usually migrate at an altitude of 200 to 4,000 feet. This can be dangerous for planes flying at high altitudes and unaware of potential ducks flying around. A duck skeleton was even found at an elevation of 16,400 feet during a Mount Everest expedition!