It seems that most children spend some of their childhood down at the nearest park or pond where they can spend their time feeding the ducks with bread. What child hasn’t felt the excitement and mild fear at the sight of ducks rushing across the water to see you, whilst you desperately hold on tight to the bag of crumbed bread?
Ducks are often overlooked in terms of how incredible their bodies actually are. They are classed as a wading bird technically, but they do not have some of the characteristics like curved beaks and long legs. Like the wader their beaks are designed to shovel and root through mud. They are omnivores and will eat seeds grass plus little fish and crabs. Ducks have an altogether different approach being amphibious they are happy in or out of the water. The really cleaver thing about ducks I the way their bodies have developed to be naturally buoyant in the water. There large breast allows them to speed along with very little resistance at all, although underneath and unseen all manner of motion is going on as we shall talk about later. If you look at the feathers of a duck they appear wax and you’ll also notice that water does not soak into them or if it does it is slow to. The ducks feathers have adapted a complex array so that combined with the waxy overcoating they have, they can stay dry. Even when the bird pivots itself under the water to feed, basically sticking its bum in the air, the feathers and wax keep the ducks skin dry. It produces the wax form something called the uropygial gland that sits near the base of the tail. This gland produces the wax coating. It’s not an uncommon gland for waterborne birds to have. Pollution can be an issue here as if the birds ever need cleaning then this essential coating is washed away making mean the bird no longer has this natural protection and must be cared for until the gland can recover.
Now as promise let’s look at how the Duck propels itself. It appears at first that the Duck glides through the water the water repellent coating smoothing the way. With their webbed feet they can really motor through the water as they force themselves along with their feet acting like a powerful pair of oars. Despite the gracefulness up top underneath there is a fury of activity as the ducks like “walk” along at a furious pace especially if it sees a bit of bread or a tasty insect to chase.
Whilst searching for information on webbed feet I came across a web of a whole different kind, http://www.starwebinnovations.co.uk/ who provide Reading Web Design. The connection made me chuckle, even if it did have nothing to do with our feathered friends.