It’s fun to watch different animals eat. Every animal sort of has its own preference and approach to consuming food. Dogs for instance, plunge into their food with reckless abandon, and most meals are treated like the poor things have been starving.
Cows, at least most of them, tend to be more methodical chewers. And then we have ducks.
If you raised ducks, you already know they are enthusiastic eaters, and between the dipping and shaking that accompanies their eating and almost looks like they’re trying to swallow something scorching hot. They make a mess of things, that’s for sure!
And since we are on the topic of ducks eating, it’s a good time to ask: do ducks have tongues?
Yes, ducks do have tongues. Although they’re mostly flat, they do have spiny structures on the edge which help them eat and also to taste their food as with most animals.
Most complex animals have tongues, and ducks are certainly no exception. If you’ve never seen a duck’s tongue there’s a good reason for that, and that’s because it’s small, flat, and typically stays situated inside their beak most of the time.
But ducks use their tongue just like most other animals, and for the same purposes. If you wanted to know everything there is to know about ducks’ tongues, keep reading.
How Does a Duck’s Tongue Compare to that of Mammals?
The function of a duck’s tongue is more or less identical to other animals, but the structure of a duck’s tongue is quite different than most.
Unlike mammals, ducks’ tongues are relatively short, flat and narrow, with mostly featureless surface.
The most prominent and immediately noticeable features on a duck’s tongue are the papillae, spiky structures located on the side of the duck’s tongue.
Ducks also lack the muscular anatomy necessary for extreme tongue movement, making their tongues less versatile and mobile, you might say, than those of mammals.
Despite these differences, the duck’s tongue is well adapted for its diet of aquatic vegetation and insects. Their tongues help them to scoop up food from murky water without getting choked.
Do Ducks Have Taste Buds?
Yes, ducks have taste buds, just like us and most other animals. Their taste buds are located on the surface of their tongue mostly near the sides, and they are responsible for detecting different flavors to help them identify food.
Researchers have demonstrated that ducks have a higher sensitivity to certain flavors, sweet ones in particular, making them particularly attracted to foods that contain sugars.
Ducks always rely on their sense of taste to find preferable foods, but you must be careful that your ducks don’t get too taken by sweet treats, even fruit, or they might have problems!
Do Ducks Taste Things Like We Do?
Kind of. While ducks have taste buds and it’s thought that they can detect the same basic flavors as humans, their sense of taste is thought to not be as pronounced as ours.
For example, they have way fewer taste buds overall compared to humans, meaning that their perception of flavor is almost certainly less intense.
But, it’s thought they are biologically more sensitive, intrinsically, to certain flavors, such as sweet or sour, to compensate.
A duck’s sense of taste is also closely linked to its sense of smell. Ducks have a solid but not highly-developed olfactory system compared to other animals, though they do use it to help them detect some foods.
Do Ducks Use Their Tongues to Help Them Eat?
Yes, definitely. Ducks use their tongues in a couple of ways to help them eat. When feeding, ducks first use their bill to scoop up food, and then use their tongue to help move the food towards the back of their mouth and position it for safe swallowing.
And that’s just the first way. Remember those papillae we talked about? Ducks use these spiny structures on the side of their tongue to help them filter small bits of food from water when eating directly from water or “rinsing” their dry food in it.
Their tongues, in conjunction with the lamellae (similar spiny structures lining either side of the mouth and bill) make these waterfowl well-suited for filter feeding.
So overall, while ducks’ tongues may not be as quite as active in their eating habits as those of some mammals, they’re still completely vital for helping ducks consume their food.
Do Ducks Rely on Their Tongues to Vocalize?
No, though it isn’t out of the question their tongue might help to slightly modulate certain sounds they make.
In any case, ducks do not need their tongues to vocalize: Instead, the sounds they produce come from the syrinx, a specialized organ located at the base of the trachea.
The syrinx contains vibrating membranes that produce sound waves, which are then modified by the duck’s breathing to create different vocalizations.
As you know, ducks can produce a wide range of sounds, including quacks, “grunts,” whistles, and hisses.
These sounds are used for communication with other ducks, establishing territorial boundaries with competitors, and scaring off encroaching predators. And ducks don’t really need their tongues to make any of these sounds!
Can Ducks Stick Out Their Tongues?
No, not really, or at least not like many mammals can. Their tongues are relatively short and narrow, and less flexible and versatile than those of mammals.
Additionally, ducks lack the muscles necessary for extreme tongue movement, further limiting their ability to stick out their tongues.
You might see a duck’s tongue pointing straight out, more or less, from the back of their mouth when they have their beak wide open, but that’s it.
Can Ducks Bite Their Own Tongues?
Ouch, I hope not! That is the worst thing… In seriousness, ducks are highly unlikely to bite their own tongues accidentally due to the structure of their bill and the way they eat.
As mentioned earlier, ducks use their bill to scoop up food, and then use their tongue to shuffle the food towards the back of their mouth.
This method, combined with the overall lack of mobility in their tongue, minimizes the risk of accidentally biting it.
But, like most animals, ducks may be forced to bite their own tongues when their bills are closed if they are injured, or if they have a deformity affecting their tongue or bill.
These issues are relatively rare in all ducks, and proper care can mitigate this likelihood in domesticated breeds.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.