Ducks are some of the most common birds in the US. Their adaptations allow them to live in a wide range of environments, making them widely kept birds. They can be kept as pets or broilers, depending on the intentions of the farmer.
As widespread as they are, most people don’t know much about ducks. The more we know about these birds, the easier it will be for us to understand them and take good care of them. So let us jump into it and learn about ducks;
What is A Duck’s Foot Called?
A duck’s foot is referred to as a palmate. The foot is shaped like an open palm; the name was derived from a Latin translation of an open palm. The same name applies to other aquatic birds that share the triangular-shaped foot webbed across the fingers.
They also have a hallux, a separate raised toe at the back of the foot. The positioning of the legs will differ depending on the duck’s feeding habits, but they are all placed further back in their bodies.
How Are Duck’s Feet Adapted For The Cold?
Nature has created amazing adaptations for animals that have made them stand out. Looking closely at most animals, you would be impressed by how well they handle extreme environments.
One of these amazing animals is the duck. You might be thinking about sharks and alligators; it might be easy for you to overlook the duck.
They can stand on ice or swim in severely cold water without their feet freezing solid. So how do they pull this off?
They use countercurrent heat exchange to control the temperature. When you are in the cold, you need to keep your core temperature high, and your body should not freeze.
Countercurrent flow achieves these two objectives for the duck. The blood from the body is warm; as it flows down towards the legs, it comes to close contact with the cold blood coming from the foot.
This cold and warmblood contact cools down the warm blood and warms up the cold blood.
When the cold temperature goes up to the body, it is heated up, not lowering the duck’s core temperature. This prevents the duck from freezing because of heat loss since the blood is almost as cold as ice.
The warm blood that is going to the legs, on the other hand, is cooled down. This means that the temperature of the duck’s foot and that of the ice are closer together, which is vital in the duck’s survival.
We know that there can only be heat transfer if a difference exists between two objects from physics.
A higher pressure difference between the objects means that temperature will move faster; thus, heat is lost faster.
If the difference is small, the heat exchange will be slower. So when the warm blood is cooled, the difference in temperature between the ice and the foot gets lower. This means very little heat is lost at the feet; thus, they won’t freeze.
Ducks standing on ice will lose only 5% of their body heat through their feet. This adaptation is seen in other animals that live in the cold, such as the arctic fox. In addition to dealing with cold, countercurrent heat exchange also works in getting rid of heat.
Tips For Raising Ducklings
Whether you are keeping the ducks as pets or as a brooding business, you need to take good care of the ducklings for them to survive. Like all other animal species, ducklings are delicate, and they need you to take care of them, and this is how;
Keep the safety of your ducklings above all else
Ducklings are small, delicate, and completely defenseless; thus, they will depend on you to defend them. So you need to understand that caring for birds is a big responsibility.
You have to set up a good brooder to keep the chicks warm and safe from other birds or animals like cats or dogs.
During their first few weeks, they don’t have feathers; thus, they will need a way to keep warm, normally the mother would keep them warm, but now you have to step up. Don’t make the brooder too hot since the birds will feather out slower.
Water management in the brooder is also important
Some of the biggest messes smells, or health hazards for your ducklings will result from poor water management. You need to provide the ducklings with a lot of clean freshwaters.
They should be able to dunk their beaks in and drink as much as they want. Ducks are fans of water, so they will play with the water and dunk their heads in.
It would help if you got a drinker that allows them to dip their heads in but not their whole bodies.
Make sure the water is kept away from the bedding so that it stays dry. Wet bedding could cause the chicks to fall sick and die.
Feeding them the right food
At an early age, all animals need a lot of food to help with development. You, therefore, need to provide the ducklings with a sufficient supply of food to keep up with their development.
You can buy specially made food for ducklings to ensure they get all the minerals they need. Wrong food might impede the growth of the birds, and it might cause deaths due to malnutrition.
You also need to provide some sand with tiny stones in it for the ducklings. This is important in their digestive system as it aids in breaking down the grass and grains the ducklings eat. You can expose them to the outdoors to give them a bit of exercise.
How Ducks Are Adapted For Their Environments
If you have ever seen a duck in the wild, then you must have seen it in a lake or near one. This is because ducks are semi-aquatic birds, which means they spend their time on land and in the water.
They, therefore, have to be adapted for movement both on land and in the water for them to thrive in their environments. Let us look at the duck’s physiology to understand just how they are adapted;
- They have webbed feet that are placed further back on their bodies. The webbed feet are a good addition that makes the foot a good tool for swimming. When the duck is in the water, the webbed feet can hold more water, making it easier for them to swim. This increased speed makes them capable hunters in the water to catch small animals and fish. Their legs are placed back, which allows them to dive when swimming. This adaptation might have compromised their walking, but it is more advantageous for them to be a good swimmer than walkers.
- They can walk and fly. Despite their leg positioning, ducks are capable of running at decent speeds when they need to. And when they can’t run fast enough, they can fly away from whatever danger they are in. There are numerous species of ducks, and they have different feet placement depending on their feeding habits. Diving ducks have their feet further back in their bodies. Thus, they find it harder to walk on land.
- They remain water-resistant while swimming. Suppose the duck’s feathers were to get wet while in the water; the duck would become too heavy to float and drown. The duck, therefore, has an adaptation to prevent this from happening. They have an oil gland at the top of their tail. Ducks use the oil from this gland to make the feathers water resistant by applying the oil on them. This oil keeps the water away, and the ducks can stay light and float even after diving.
- The ducklings get hatched, ready for the world. They can see, walk and find food within hours of hatching, which gives them a big advantage. They follow their mother around for protection as they grow larger. They eat grass and bugs to help sustain their rapid growth rate. Wild ducks can fly about 60 days after hatching, so they can migrate before the winter. They grow a thick feather coat to keep them warm in the environments they live in.
Duck’s feet are called palmate, and they were named so from Latin since they resemble an open palm. This is a feature shared in almost all the birds living in the water or hunting near water bodies.
Webbed feet allow birds and mammals to swim faster and dive in the water for food since they have a wider surface for trapping water. For animals that live in extremely cold or hot environments, there is a need to regulate the body temperatures.
Most animals use countercurrent heat exchange to do this. They match the temperature of their bodies to that of the environment to reduce heat loss. When taking care of ducklings, you need to keep them safe and feed them to grow strong and healthy.