by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Trimming Duck’s Wings

February 13th, 2013

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.

Join the conversation:

  1. do you need to do both wings?

    Posted by bette fredrickson
  2. 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.

    Posted by Sarah

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