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6 incredible facts about Ducks

Lesser Scaup Drake (Aythya affinis) floats in a Lake in Dallas, Texas with a grumpy look on his face.
Grumpy Duck

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Ducks waddle,

right? But do you know why they waddle? Well, after reading this blog, you will! There are approximately 120 different species of ducks, and all of them are special, but I’m going to tell you about 6 incredible facts that are common to all ducks. Some of these you just won’t believe!

Ducks and other waterfowl are my favorite subjects to photograph, especially in the morning. There’s something about hearing that raspy quack off in the distance. You hear them before you see them. They are getting closer and closer, creating a symphony only ducks can create. Then, against the first light of day, there they are in all their glory. A beautiful silhouette with the morning sun as their backdrop. Yes, I do have a thing for ducks.

Ducks are one of the most diverse and interesting creatures on the planet. Inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. Ducks can be found just about everywhere there is water; from the Arctic to the tropics and from the ocean to the desert. To survive in these varied environments, ducks have some remarkable abilities to do amazing things. Below are six of these abilities. After reading this, you will not look at ducks the same.

Are you ready? Here we go. 6 incredible facts about ducks that I bet you didn’t know.

1. Classification: Ducks are classified by the way they feed, either as a diving duck or a dabbling duck. Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or graze on the land. Diving ducks dive deep underwater for their food. To be able to submerge, the diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks. Because of these extra pounds, diving ducks have more difficulty in taking off for flight.

2. Waterproof Feathers: Most of us have heard the adage, like water off a duck’s back. Well, ducks take special care to insulate and protect themselves against nature. When ducks preen (rub their feathers with their beaks), they spread an oily coating on their feathers which aids in waterproofing. This oil is produced by a gland at the base of its tails. Their feather structure is very complex and not as simple as you may think. Beneath the surface feathers, lies a downy underlayer that can stay completely dry even when ducks are fully submerged in the water. The oily coating also insulates them from extremely cold temperatures.

3. Duck feet: While ducks’ feathers are for keeping their bodies warm, they don’t need anything to keep their feet warm. Ducks' feet have no nerves or blood vessels. Their feet don’t get cold. This allows them to swim in freezing water and walk on ice and snow. This is also why they waddle instead of walking. Can you imagine trying to walk with no feeling in your feet? You would waddle too!

4. Ducks have bones in their tongue. Nope! That’s not a typo. Ducks have bones that run down the middle of their two-inch-long tongue. These bones support the larynx. Here’s something else that is special about a duck’s tongue. They do not have taste buds on the surface but tiny papillae that protrude on either side of their tongues. The papillae help the ducks hold their food and direct it towards the esophagus, helping them swallow the food.

5. Ducks have three eyelids. The normal top and bottom, as well as a third that’s found on the side of the eye. The third eyelid is clear and acts like goggles while the duck is underwater. Ducks have a bunch of impressive eye features. They have excellent vision, and since their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they have a field of vision of almost 340 degrees. The duck hunters out there are thinking that that explains a lot!

6. Sleeping with one eye open: Ducks are highly alert and sleep with half of their brains awake. Again, not a typo. Those that sleep at the edge of the group often sleep with one eye open. These “lookout” ducks keep their group out of harm’s way. Even with only one of their eyes open, they can react to a predator in one-fifth of a second. Another old saying comes from the animal kingdom, sleep with one eye open!

There you have it! 6 incredible facts about ducks. I admit, I only knew two of them and I’ve been around ducks most of my life!

I hope you learned as much as I did.

A Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) drake preens his feathers.
Preening Pintail

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Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view


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