3 Face / Lores
5 Upper mandible
6 Nail / Bean
7 Lower mandible
8 Secondary feathers
9 Primary Feathers
14 Shank / Tarsus
Ducks can see for a very long way thanks to their very sharp vision. They can also see almost 360 degrees as their eyes are on either side of their heads. The only problem is that they don't have effective tear ducts which is why they need water to regularly clean and moisten their eyes.
A duck's bill is a triumph of evolutionary tool making. They are designed for scooping up water and rootling around for insects and other tasty morsels in the ground. The nostrils are located near the head end of their bill allowing them to find food in water without having to hold their breath. The top half of the duck\'s bill, called the 'upper mandible', is an extension of the skull and is fixed in place. Only the lower mandible is hinged and it does all the moving. The bill is covered in a layer of Keratin which is continually being worn down and regrown.
Along with the bill, a duck\'s feet are its most characteristic symbol. The webbing between their toes is a form of subaqua turbocharger which makes high speed swimming a doddle but is also ideal for paddling around in water. Although their feet look soft, be careful when handing your duck, as they have small nails on the end of their toes.
Even up close the feathers on a duck seem to be one seemless blanket, each one overlapping and linking in to create a smooth, streamlined surface. They keep their feathers looking smart by regularly preening themselves. During this preening the bill rubs oil from a gland at the base of their tail. They then use the bill to coat their feathers with a fine layer of oil to make themselves waterproof. Ducklings get this oil from their mother until they have developed their own feathers. Ducks also have different layers of feathers making them able to cope with all sorts of conditions. Under the outer feathers they have a thick layer of fine down which insulates them and allows them to swim around all day on cold water.
The tail is often a good indicator of the sex of a duck. If you see couple of small curly feathers in its tail then it is likely that it is a mature male.
Most ducks have a range of features which allow them to fly high and over long distances. They have aerodynamic body shapes and are able to tuck their feet in to further streamline their appearance. Unlike chickens their wings are strong and have large, well developed flight feathers.
Salon, 3 May 2021
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