Ducks of Disney: Donald’s Dynasty
If you’ve visited Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or the international parks, you’ve likely seen ducks–and we’re not just talking Donald or Scrooge McDuck back in Toontown. Disney’s parks are home to a wide range of waterfowl, and in this post, we’ll pay tribute to these awesome aquatic birds via photos.
While ducks will be the focus of this post, they’re far from the other birds of Disney. This is particularly true at Walt Disney World, which is home to over 200 species of birds either seasonally or year-round. We’ve seen a wide range of birds around the Florida resort complex, with wild turkey being the most exciting (at least, to us). You can sometimes spot them around Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.
Unfortunately, unlike our Cats of Disney: The Kingdom’s Kitty Keepers, we don’t have any “exclusive” photos of the ducks enjoying the emptiness of Walt Disney World or Disneyland while they’re closed. Nor do we have a really fascinating and true backstory about how Disney cares for its many ducks. To our knowledge, ducks have sort of just made the parks their adopted habitat out of convenience. However, we do have a lot of fun photos and video…
Initially, I wanted to make this Ducks of Disney post a quirky and weird one like the aforementioned Cats of Disney one. I tried to think of ways to accomplish that, but to no avail. To my knowledge, there’s no duck-centric “so bad it’s good” cult classic film like Cats that would lend itself to Photoshop.
Then I thought maybe some off-the-wall captions would work. One of my all-time favorite things on the internet is this Clickhole article: We Let Ed Sheeran Guest-Edit This List Of Fluffy Otters And He Did A Bad Job. However, that’s very taste-specific (and as I’ve found out from friends with whom I’ve shared that, most people do not share my humor).
The truth is that ducks are pretty delightful on their own, and my feeble attempts at humor are unnecessary. So, without further ado are some duck photos from Disneyland and Walt Disney World plus some straightforward observations and fun facts…
Spring is one of my favorite times of year at Disneyland.
That’s in large part due to the baby ducklings that appear in the moat around Sleeping Beauty Castle, in and around the Central Plaza, along the Rivers of America, and throughout Frontierland.
While the scene throughout Walt Disney World is similar, Disneyland seems like a more conducive environment for duck-watching.
Guests are more laid back, there are fewer people around the hub, and people are generally more passive about the ducks.
One of our favorite things to do at Disneyland in the spring is simply sit on a bench in the hub.
We order a Matterhorn Macaroon from Jolly Holiday Bakery, get a perfect view of Sleeping Beauty Castle with the pink blossoms of the Tabebuia trees in the foreground, and wait for the ducklings to appear. Perfection.
Naturally, sometimes the ducklings have ideas of their own, and we have to vacate our bench to give them some space.
It’s the ducks’ park, and the rest of us are just their guests.
Quintessential Disneyland. pic.twitter.com/jv4nQxjc5g
– Tom Bricker (@Tom_Bricker) June 5, 2019
You might think we’re overselling how chill and relaxed duck-watching is at the California parks, so I’d encourage you to watch the above video all the way to the end with the sound on.
That’s quintessential Disneyland. Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but that video succinctly encapsulates so much of what makes Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom such a special place–and why every Walt Disney World-centric fan owes it to themselves to visit.
Of course, Walt Disney World also has no shortage of ducks.
One of my favorite spots to duck-watch used to be at Epcot. The reflecting pool in front of Universe of Energy was secluded from the crowds, and its mix of water and flowers was like catnip for ducks.
On both coasts, the easiest place to spot ducks is in the moat around Cinderella Castle and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Ducks frequently float around these waterways. At Magic Kingdom, the large swaths of (real) grass between the Plaza Gardens and Cinderella Castle is also popular.
You can often find ducks in the waterfall (pictured above) that faces Cinderella Castle from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
In the other side of the bridge, ducks perch on the waterfalls behind the restaurant.
Tomorrowland Terrace is another great duck-watching spot. Really, any of the pathways around the hub are solid options as ducks will frequently rest on the grass in view of the pathways.
Above is a “behind the scenes” Disney Duck Diptych of me capturing an image (by Sarah), plus my photo itself.
Many of the photos here were shot with my Nikon and serious lenses (the 70-200mm is my lens of choice for duck photography).
However, more frequently these days I’m simply using my iPhone for quick snaps that can be shared on social media. (In other words, excuse the quality of the above and below images!)
We’ve found that quite frequently, “posed” portraits of ducks are easy.
They will often approach a fence thinking the camera is a food handout. So long as you can capture the shot before they realize what’s really up and bounce, you should be able to get a nice photo.
I’ve shared this photo before. It’s not my finest work ever, but I did spend over 10 minutes photographing this ducks swimming in the Sleeping Beauty Castle moat at night.
I was entranced by the swirls of color they left in their wake, and how cool that looked. It doesn’t translate quite as well to photos, but you get the idea.
Ducks have even taken up residence in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
On Batuu, the native species have already adapted to blend into their surroundings. Remarkable!
Ducks are so popular with some guests that they dress their children up as waterfowl to pay tribute.
The “duck butt” trend is actually quite popular (and adorable) at Tokyo Disney Resort, both in costume and snack form.
Of course, ducks are found at the international parks as well. While I don’t have great photos of them readily accessible, we regularly see ducks at Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Resort.
Tokyo DisneySea, as the name might suggest, is particularly popular with the waterfowl.
Now for some quick ducks of Disney fun facts.
Walt Disney set aside roughly one-third of his Florida Project as a protected area–that’s over 8,000 acres of wetland and upland habitats.
This area serves as an important corridor for many species of migratory birds, which make Walt Disney World their winter home and breeding ground.
DisneyWorld.com has a dedicated page to migratory birds that’s worth checking out.
However, most North American ducks don’t trek this far south in the colder months.
Of those that do make it all the way to Florida, you’re most likely to spot the Hooded Merganser or Ring-necked Duck.
The vast majority of photos in this post–and the vast majority of the ducks you’ll see at Walt Disney World or Disneyland–are Mallards.
You’re probably already familiar with Mallards, but here’s some additional info from the National Audubon Society.
Ducks aren’t just a popular photo subject with the two of us. Disney has a number of duck publicity photos (including the peculiar one above for Donald Duck’s birthday) and posts occasional updates on the waterfowl of the parks.
There’s also the noteworthy @ducksofdisneyland Instagram account. Like @disneylandcats, this account is out there doing the important work. Follow them for even more distinguished duck content!
Finally, a few photos from around Walt Disney World to file under the category of “definitely not our duckos!”
Obviously, Animal Kingdom is home to some rare and special bird species. Maharajah Jungle Trek is my favorite spot for bird-watching (and photography), but you can also find Northern pintail ducks at the Oasis near the park’s main entrance. There are also other species around Tree of Life and along trails in Africa and Asia. Sadly, no pterodactyls in Dinoland.
Anyone who has visited Magic Kingdom…or sat in any seating area near a turkey leg stand…is probably familiar with the White Ibis. The bird looks pretty and perhaps even downright majestic in this photo, and they are in a true state of nature.
At Walt Disney World, don’t let their looks deceive–they’re aggressive thieves when it comes to turkey legs. We’ve literally seen them steal the snack from kids (more than once!).
Speaking of which, don’t feed the ducks or any other animals at Walt Disney World, for that matter.
These are opportunistic wild animals. The “free roaming” or feral critters are attracted to the parks because they provide a relatively safe habitat with plentiful food sources.
Handing them food or dropping it in their vicinity makes the birds more aggressive and comfortable around humans, which is a lose-lose proposition in the long term.
It may be amusing in the moment, but consider what might happen to the next guest or even the bird itself once Disney deems it too aggressive. Don’t do it.
Getting off our soapbox, here’s a look at the biggest bird at Walt Disney World–Kevin!
She is a new-ish walk-around character at Animal Kingdom, and is one of the coolest additions in years. Not a duck and not even technically a real bird, but I had to give this a quick plug, because it’s a fun interaction and unheralded Walt Disney World offering.
We spotted this owl a couple of times in Tomorrowland a couple of years ago. This photo cracks me up because it looks like Mike Wazowski is about to interview him for Monsters Laugh Floor. Perhaps the bird was going to be that guy!
Per Walt Disney World Cast Members who worked in this area of Magic Kingdom at the time, this owl used Tomorrowland signage as a perch for hunting. A few reported seeing the bird swoop down to grab rodents–ironic that some of the wildlife calling Walt Disney World and Disneyland their adopted home are predators of mice!
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Hopefully you enjoyed this fun look at the ducks of Disney! Do you have any favorite duck-watching spots at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Any breeds of rare birds you’ve spotted? Questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!
My daughter’s father is a decoy maker, so she always loved to see ducks at various places in Disney World. The best pictures I took were at an empty Polynesian pool. where my daughter and I were the only ones swimming. She loved how close the ducks were! Going to get my Disney photo albums out right now to reminisce!! Thanks for the awesome photos!
Our 2010 stay at the Caribbean Beach resort was marked by my then 2-year old daughter’s fascination with the ducks in Barefoot Bay. We laughed every morning at how she’d rather hang out on the beach, calling out to the ducks, than to go to the parks. Thanks, Tom, for bringing back that memory.
That’s great! I’d love to be sitting along Barefoot Bay watching the ducks right about now…
One of my favourite memories is watching my 2 year old son at Epcot as he watched the ducks. You have flown all the way to Florida and you are at Disney World, and the ducks are the great attraction. Too funny. Needless to say, I have lots of ducks at Disney photos too.
The last time I commented One of your blogs I forgot to mention how much I enjoy reading your blogs and especially your pictures. I tell everyone about your site and we all love your photography. Concerning the ducks , several years ago we were walking in between the land and Journey into imagination and We saw a mother duck with her ducklings trying to get out of the water but there is a cement rim around everything and they could not get out. We reported this to several cast members, there must’ve been Others that brought this to Disney’s attention as well because the next day there was a metal ramp in there for them. Another thing that we like to watch in the parks is the local birds coming in at night to go to the rookery‘s.
Howard the Duck movie?
I’ve never seen it, but am aware of its existence and general outline. Is that really meme-able like the recent Cats movie?
They used to keep black swans out near the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. One was named Rebecca, and she and her mate had had babies. While other guests and I watched, Rebecca and her mate paraded the cygnets in a line in front of us one way, then turned them around and marched them before us in the other direction, just like proud human parents showing their children off!
I don’t recall ever seeing them in person, but there are publicity photos from the 1980s and 1990s of the reflecting ponds near Mexico with those swans!
Thank you so much for this story. The last time I was at Disneyland, my daughter and I were sitting on a cement planter wall in New Orleans square and turned around to see a mother duck and her 9 ducklings under a bush right behind us!
All this article needs is a link to the Disneyland Paris duckling commercial with “Dream the Impossible Dream.”
My son and I have a running joke that all the ducks you see at Disneyland are actually very advanced animatronics.
That commercial is so good! It did make our recent top 10 list: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/best-disney-world-disneyland-commercials/
I have wondered about all the ducks, white ibis and other birds and animals that depend on food that is usually at the Disney parks. People’s left overs, etc are food sources for a lot of wild animals everywhere. When we were at Disney World in December we saw how pushy the White Ibis is over turkey legs. (was entertaining) We also saw Disney employees working on catching one of them that was limping to provide treatment. (they weren’t successful capturing while we were there). All the animals must be wondering where all the people went.
I feel like there was a missed tie-in for The Mighty Ducks somewhere! 🙂 (Probably before your time…)
I was the sweet-spot age for the Mighty Ducks movies (and their sequels). Became a temporary fan of the Mighty Ducks and Angels thanks to Disney movies!
Lucky ducks get to stay at the parks!
‘duck-centric “so bad it’s good” cult classic film like Cats’: Howard the Duck (might be before your time, and stretches the definition of cult classic, but definitely bad)
Birds love the outdoor eating areas around the international showcase at Epcot. They tend to have just the right combination of trepidation of humans and non-aggression. They stay nearby waiting for you to drop food naturally as humans and their offspring are wont to do (especially my offspring). They quickly swoop in, grab the food, and quickly fly out of range again.
You know the photos you take when you think you see a celebrity or significant person out in public, you don’t want to bother them, so you take a selfie where you yourself are kind of off center and the other person is clear in the background? We have a ton of those pictures with various Disney park birds and animals in the celebrity or significant person spot. “Here’s me eating ice cream, but oh! What’s this over my shoulder watching me eat? It’s a duck! Right there! Behind me! A DUCK!”
We’re an easily entertained and pleased family, what can I say?
“You know the photos you take when you think you see a celebrity or significant person out in public, you don’t want to bother them, so you take a selfie where you yourself are kind of off center and the other person is clear in the background? We have a ton of those pictures with various Disney park birds and animals in the celebrity or significant person spot. “Here’s me eating ice cream, but oh! What’s this over my shoulder watching me eat? It’s a duck! Right there! Behind me! A DUCK!””
That’s hilarious and awesome.
My husband is an avid duck hunter, less so a Disney parks fan. During his first ever trip eight years ago, we were standing near the water while waiting for our Crystal Palace breakfast reservation when he spotted a banded duck. (Apparently water fowl bands are known as jewelry, and are treasured in the hunting community, lol?) A dad from another family, total strangers to us, was also drooling over it, and I have never seen my husband make friends so quickly while they both commiserated about not being able to get to it. When I mentioned the topic of your post today, he ran over to see what kinds of ducks you captured in your photos. I might have to plan a Disney ducks scavenger hunt for our next trip 😉
Love this, especially, about all the other birds. Will share with my bird watchers club in Poinciana, Fla. there is a Nature Conservancy here that has been funded by Disney, they even outbid a developer to add land. We need more wildlife corridors.
My teenage sons and I were just revisiting some pics from a trip to WDW when they were young. When we came to the ducklings they “Ooooo”ed and squealed like little kids again. <3
love watching the ducks. absolutely hate when people decide to feed them, or any birds, ugh. our lunch last trip at flame tree bbq was very nearly ruined thanks to the neighboring table’s obsession with feeding the white birds that hang out there (species escapes me) but they nearly swarmed our table.
They were probably the White Ibis. I see them all around Animal Kingdom, and they also love hanging out at the base of Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom and other places in Frontierland.
Once I saw a blackbird or crow land on someone’s food when they deserted it on a table at Flame Tree BBQ to go get utensils or something. I told them about it, thinking they’d want to know their food now had germs all over it, but they didn’t care and looked like they were going to eat it anyway without even trying to replace it.
Kevin is one of the best new additions, my daughter loves her. Thank You for the lighthearted article.
We love seeing the baby ducks when we are there. One of the times we had a horrible experience with ducks. Walking out of Casey’s in Magic Kingdom, we witnessed a bird swoop in and snatch up a duckling from its mama. The mom was sitting there quacking for the baby.
We asked a worker if someone could help the duckling out, but they said no and it happens a lot. Luckily the kids were young enough that they didn’t know what was happening. You know that it is the circle of life and how things work, but you never think of that happening in the most magical place on Earth.
I’ve seen adult male ducks get aggressive with young mother ducks at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Dampened my enjoyment of the day, but what can Disney do to prevent nature from being nature?
I’m loving these articles! Such a lighthearted take for this time. Keep ‘em coming!
On Tom Sawyers island there used to be like gum ball machines, where you could buy food to feed the ducks and birds. It kept it well populated with animals. We usually spent some time feeding and watching. They were not afraid of people at all. If you held your hand flat they eat right out of your hand. The kids loved it!