Duck Duties

Top Photo: Drake feeds as duck preens.

Ducks take preening, as do all birds, very seriously. After all, feathers are an important part of their lives. Feathers keep them cool in summer, warm in winter, dry both in and out of the water, and allows them to fly. Feather care is an essential part of their daily routine.

Birds even have a built-in oil gland (uropygial gland) located on their backs just forward of the tail. If you watch a bird long enough you’ll see them reach back to collect oil from the gland and apply it to their feathers. They collect oil from the gland via their bills and transfer it to the feathers on the rest of their body.

Obviously, they can’t reach their head feathers with their beak so they first apply the oil to another part of the body, then rub their head through the oiled part.

The female in the top photo is reaching back, grabbing a bill full of preening oil and applying it as needed. In the next photo she rubs her head through the applied oil.

Female (duck or hen) rubs head against applied preening oil.
A few final touches while male patiently waits in water.
The pair swim off together.

The ducks will stop, feed and preen throughout the day.

Now it’s the drakes turn as duck (female) feeds.
Male eyes me…
Then swims off.

All in a day’s work

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