Lessons From Ducks

As an avid duck hunter, I’ve learned a lot about ducks. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot from ducks.


This morning as I walked back from the gym, a group of Canadian geese (“honkers”) flew over. Hundreds of them have taken up permanent residence in our neighborhood. Whenever I see (or hear) these majestic birds, I come to a standstill in utter amazement. I know it’s weird, but the sight and sound of waterfowl calm my spirit. I have many good memories of my father and I sitting in a boat on a near frozen lake during duck season.

As an avid duck hunter during my younger years, I’ve learned a lot about ducks. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot from ducks.

Learned from a duck?

Did you know that migrating ducks fly in a “V” formation? The lead duck is taking all the wind resistance. The trailing ducks in the formation are “drafting” to conserve strength for the long journey. Furthermore, the lead duck is rotated so that the full burden of the wind resistance is shared.

An interesting fact is that the “V” formation is about a 70 degree angle. Did you know that NASA struggled for years trying to break the sound barrier? It costs us millions – and even lives. It turns out that by sweeping the wings of a plane at a 70 degree angle – viola! Maybe we should have learned from the ducks!

If a duck in a migrating formation falls ill, another duck will accompany it on the ground until it either recovers or dies – then one (or both) will join another formation. Yes, we should learn from the ducks.

While hanging at a a book store – you know, the kind with a coffee bar – I struck up a conversation with a young man who was studying for a Masters degree in biology. In our conversation, he indicated that if miracles were still happening today like in the biblical days, he would be inclined to believe in God.

I asked him if he was familiar with the migratory habits of waterfowl. “Of course” he replied. In my “play dumb” Columbo voice, I asked him how tens of thousands of ducks leave Canada to fly south on a day when there’s not yet even a hint of cold weather in the air. “Instinct” he replied. I agreed since the vast majority of the duck had just been hatched, it’s unlikely that they had learned it somehow.

I then asked him how did the ducks know which as was south? “Instinct – it’s in their DNA” he replied. I nodded my head as if I had lost that round of the debate.

I then asked him how the ducks knew that flying south would solve the problem of dying in the cold weather that they didn’t even know was coming? “Instinct”, he replied.

I could tell his patience was getting stretched, so in “Columbo” fashion I said “one last thing, this is kinda bothering me… how do the ducks know how far south to migrate? After all, if they don’t go far enough, they will be unable to find food in the frozen terrain. On the other hand, if they fly too far, they wind up over the Gulf of Mexico with no food supply. “Instinct” he replied.

I shook his hand and thanked him for his help. I walked a few steps, stopped, turned around, and re-approached him. In my best imitation of Columbo, I said “I hate to keep bothering you, but there’s  something that just doesn’t add up here. You see, if ducks do all that by “instinct” how is it that the same species of ducks do the exact opposite in the southern hemisphere?

All of his academic rigor failed him. He could only concede that he didn’t know – and that gave me the opportunity to share with him that I consider it a miracle – or at least a revelation from God.

Yes – we could learn a lot from the ducks.


That’s what I think. I’m interested in your thoughts. There’s lots of ways to hit me up so let me hear from you.

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Author: Mark Prasek

Christian Technologist. Find me on Twitter @DataGenesis

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