Ducks are a collection of different species of bird. They are waterfowls, with feathers and feet specially adapted to life in and around water. Like all birds, ducks lay eggs, but that is only one phase of their life cycle. Hatching, maturing and mating are also steps ducks pass through during their life cycle.
Unlike other waterfowl, such as swans and geese, ducks do not mate for life. Each seasonal bond is monogamous, but most species choose a new partner at the beginning of the mating season in winter. In addition, a much smaller number of duck species -- around seven percent -- practice polygamy. In this system, a male duck may mate with several females who inhabit his territory.
The egg laying season runs from mid-March until early July. Typically, ducks lay around around 12 eggs per clutch. The female will lay one to two eggs a day until the clutch is complete. She is then responsible for incubation, which can take up to a month.
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After their incubation, ducklings must break out of the egg. To do this, ducklings are equipped with an egg tooth, a sharp appendage on the bill that falls off once they are free of the egg. Hatching typically takes three to 24 hours. During this time, the ducklings and the mother duck will be vocal, helping aid in imprinting on the mother duck.
The ducklings are led to water within a day of hatching, where they learn to identify edible food. After about two months, they are able to fly. Within a year, they can mate, starting the cycle again.