Facts About Ducks (real and rubbery 🐤) in Portland

We have some answers to those ever important questions: What do you do when you spot a duck leading a string of ducklings across a busy road? Can rubber ducks actually help the environment? How far can a rubber duck travel in the ocean? Who was Moby-Duck? What’s the difference between a dabbler and a diver? What kind of ducks are found in Oregon?

Let’s go!

Can you own a duck in my backyard in Portland?
Yes. Up to four (and other similarly sized domestic fowl) may be kept on any lot. Permits are not required, but you must comply with code standards and best practices.

How can I identify ducks in Portland?
We recommend using these two links to help you identify Oregon ducks.

How can I help Urban Mallards (and other ducks)
It is a common and somewhat harrowing sight to see a duck leading a string of ducklings across a busy road or through the middle of a highly urbanized area. If you feel they need help, visit audubonportland.org

What kind of ducks are in Oregon
Ducks are normally dabblers or divers that can either be found near salt water or pond water. Here’s what we have in Oregon:

Dabbling Ducks

  • Mallards
  • American Wigeons
  • Gadwalls
  • Northern Pintails
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Wood Ducks
  • Cinnamon Teal

Diving / Sea Ducks

  • Buffleheads
  • Canvasbacks
  • Ruddy Ducks
  • Redheads
  • Ring-necked Ducks
  • Common Goldeneyes
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Greater Scaup
  • Harlequin Duck


When was the first rubber duck made?
Eleanor Shannahan invented the rubber duck in 1931.

How big is the average rubber duck?
Approximately 4″L x 3″W. 

Are all rubber ducks made overseas?
Nope. An American company named CelebriDucks manufactures rubber ducks.

What’s the story of Moby Duck?
In 1992, a cargo ship container tumbled into the North Pacific, dumping 28,000 rubber ducks and other bath toys that were headed from China to the U.S. Currents took them. Read: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.

How far did the rubber ducks travel?
Some of the toys landed along Pacific Ocean shores, such as Hawaii. Others traveled over 27,000 kilometres (17,000 mi), floating over the site where the Titanic sank, and spent years frozen in Arctic ice before reaching the U.S. Eastern Seaboard as well as British and Irish shores, fifteen years later, in 2007.

How have the rubber ducks helped in climate research?
After the shipping container disaster, the rubber ducks rode the ocean currents. About a third of them drifted to the shores of Indonesia, Australia, and South America. Another third went north, along the Pacific side of South and North America. A year later, some were found in Alaska. Three years later, some were found in Japan (doing a full lap around the Pacific Ocean!) Some even passed through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean and were trapped in ice, and then later were released from ice and found on the north Atlantic. 

The accidental release represented an opportunity for Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer to map the progress of their movements to study ocean currents. He called them The Friendly Floatees, and entered each one into a computer model that combines data on air pressure and the speed and direction of weather systems to map the path of ocean current indicators (Ocean Surface Currents Simulation – OSCAR).

Of those 28,000 rubber duckies, how many are still in the ocean?
It’s thought that today as many as 2000 remain at sea spiraling around in circular currents called ‘gyres’, still sometimes landing on shores from Alaska to Japan. Many have been found intact, hardly even bleached, years after they entered the sea.

Are rubber ducks safe for children?
Depends on how they are cleaned. The microbes swimming inside the ducks contain up to 75 million cells per square centimeter (0.15 square inch) of a variety of bacteria and fungus, such as Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that are usually found in hospital infections. 

What is considered the largest rubber duck and where is it?
There is a giant inflatable rubber duck in Maine. The duck, as you may have heard, stands some 25 feet tall. It floats in the harbor off of Belfast, a tiny city midway up the Maine coast and south of Bangor, having apparently appeared bobbing in the water there under cover of darkness.

Originally written in honor of National Rubber Ducky Day!
Photo credit: Lisa Yount