Why Does Duck Have Tail Feathers

You probably might have seen a duck, and you are wondering why it has tail feathers. These tail feathers are not just part of the bird’s anatomy; they are functional to the birds and help for control and stability. These tail feathers serve as a rudder that helps to steer the bird to fly and helps it maintain balance while twisting and turning in flight. Also, they act as a brake that ensures the safe landing of the duck.

The tail feathers differ in texture and numbers in ducks. For instance, the pink-eared duck has 12 tail feathers, the Hardhead has 14, and the Pacific Black duck has 16 to 20.

Feathers are the major basis for why ducks are categorized as birds. In addition to the above, feathers aid the duck in flying, swimming, preserving heat, attracting mates, and serving as protection against the weather.

The presence of feathers is essential in the daily life of the ducks. During the winter, the duck uses the feathers to preserve heat that serves as insulation, and during the breeding season, they use it to attract mates.

Ducks possess four distinct types of feathers. Let’s check it out.

Types of Feathers in a Duck

There are four distinct types of feathers in a duck, each of which provides distinct functions. They are:

  • Contour feathers
  • Semiplume feathers
  • Filoplume feathers
  • Down feathers
  1. The Contour Feathers

The contour feathers refer to the outer feathers that are the most visible of the duck’s feathers. The contour feather is the largest of its feathers, and they help to provide warmth to the birds, and aid its body structure and flight, including serving as a waterproof layer that protects the duck against water.

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The contour feather differs in color, length, and width in ducks. Each species of duck has unique contour feathers.

  1. The Semiplume Feathers

Semiplume feathers are situated between the contour and down feathers and serve as an undercoat of the duck feathers. They also function as insulators to keep the duck warm.

  1. The Filoplume Feathers

The stiff hair-like feathers located at the base of contour feathers are referred to as the Filoplume feathers. They are small and distributed throughout the dick’s body.  Typically, they measure 6 millimeters in length.

  1. The Down Feathers

The Down feathers are located underneath the contour feathers of the duck. They are usually light, soft, and delicate. This is the type of feather a duckling is born with. At birth, it looks fluffy. The female ducks use the down feathers to build nests for their fertilized eggs, and they function to help the ducks insulate themselves.

Additionally, the down feathers are of economic value to man and are used to make insulators like jackets.

Are Ducks Born with Feathers?

Ducks are only born with down feathers. They get to about 7 to 9 weeks old before developing contour feathers. At birth, the down feathers are fluffy and may be in white, brown, or yellow color. They help to keep the ducklings warm and help them to swim.

Do Ducks Shed Off Their Feathers?

You probably might be wondering whether ducks shed off their feathers or not.  Yes, they do. Ducks shed off their feathers at least once annually. After shedding, they grow an entirely new set of feathers, and the circle continues.

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However, Ducks do not shed their tail feather or wings.

Do Ducks Have Bright Feathers?

Yes, ducks have bright feathers, and it is only found in the male ducks and is used to attract mates. During mating season, the male ducks attract the female ducks to breed with them by displaying their colorful plumage.

Sounds surprising, right? The female ducks choose a male duck to mate with based on certain premises, including the color of their feathers, mating dance, and mating call.

Why Does a Duck’s Feather Never Get Wet?

I remember when I was walking around the neighborhood with a friend, and there was a duck with her duckling doing their normal thing, and it had just finished raining. She looked at me and asked, “why does a duck feather never get wet? Unlike other birds, ducks preen, which is why they do not get wet. Preening is the process where ducks secrete preen oil. This oil is hydrophobic. The ducks cover their feathers with it. So this oil helps the duck to repel the water and not to soak any water. The preen oil serves as the waterproof formulae.

Do Ducks Use Their Feathers to Fly

Most of us haven’t seen a duck fly, and we wonder why they have feathers. Domestic sucks due to their weight hardly flying. Their feathers can’t carry their body weight. However, the wild ducks fly. Typically, ducks are migratory birds. During the winter, they fly south to get a warmer nesting ground, and they fly back to the base when it is spring.

 What are the Functions of the Ducks Feathers?

The duck feathers serve a lot of functions. Apart from flying, the feather helps to:

  • Keep the duck dry at all times. This is made possible due to preening, which produces waterproof effects.
  • The feathers help the duck swim. Ducks are birds that also swim, and most species of ducks sleep while floating on shallow water.
  • To maintain optimum body temperature at all times. The outermost layer of the feather is water repellent, and the down part helps for insulation. At all times, they can maintain a good temperature balance.
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The tail feathers are essential to the duck as they help maintain stability and control during flight and serve as a brake for a safe landing. Also, they exist in different colors, sizes, and numbers across different species of ducks. The importance of tail feathers to the bird is as essential as a brake to a car. Without it, the duck won’t be complete and can’t fly.


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