Wing morphology correlates with flight performance and ecology among adult birds, yet the impact of wing development on aerodynamic capacity is not well understood. Recent work using chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar), a precocial flier, indicates that peak coefficients of lift and drag (CL, CD) and lift-to-drag ratio (CL:CD) increase throughout ontogeny and that these patterns correspond with changes in feather microstructure. To begin to place these results in a comparative context that includes variation in life-history strategy, we used a propeller and force-plate model to study aerodynamic force production across a developmental series of the altricial-flying mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos). We observed the same trend in mallards as reported for chukar in that coefficients of vertical (CV) and horizontal force (CH) and CV:CH ratio increased with age, and that measures of gross-wing morphology (aspect ratio, camberporosity) in mallards did not account for intraspecific trends in force production. Rather, feather microstructure (feather unfurling, rachis width, feather asymmetry and barbule overlap) all were positively correlated with peak(CV:CH). Throughout ontogeny, mallard primary feathers became stiffer and less transmissive to air at both macroscale (between individual feathers) and microscale (between barbs/barbules/barbicels) levels. Differences between species were manifest primarily as heterochrony of aerodynamic force development. Chukar wings generated measureable aerodynamic forces early (<8 days), and improved gradually throughout a 100-day ontogenetic period. Mallard wings exhibited delayed aerodynamic force production until just prior to fledging (day 60), and showed dramatic improvement within a condensed two-week period. These differences in timing may be related to mechanisms of escape used by juveniles, with mallards swimming to safety and chukar flap-running up slopes to take refuge. Future comparative work should test whether the need for early onset of aerodynamic force production in the chukar, compared with delayed, but rapid, change in the mallard wing, leads to a limited repertoire of flight behavior in adult chukar compared with mallards.