Yes, ducks have ears. Hearing is an essential sense to ducks when it comes to communicating with each other. Waterfowls communicate with various vocalizations, including mating and alerting sounds. They rely on their ears to maintain contact with their mates and young ones. However, ducks’ ears do not have external appendages, unlike those of mammals that have pinnae. This can make you think that ducks have no ears.
If you are wondering whether ducks have ears and how they hear, continue reading to discover more!
How Do Ducks Hear?
Like all birds, ducks hear through small funnel-shaped holes located on both sides of their head. These holes are positioned behind and just below the eyes. They are covered with feathers that extend back from the eye. The feathers provide protection and reduce wind noise that would interfere with the hearing ability.
In mammals, the external ear helps identify sound sources by absorbing and reflecting or diffracting the sound waves. So, how do ducks identify the sound sources without the external ear?
Well, it’s simple as the head of a duck plays the role of external ears. Since their heads are slightly oval-shaped, ducks can trace where the sound comes from and whether it’s below or above.
When the sound waves coming from different angles of elevation hit the eardrum, the ear of the opposite side determines the elevation. The duck’s head reflects, absorbs, and diffracts sound waves.
Depending on the sound waves’ volume, a duck can accurately trace the direction from which the sound comes, just like the human ear. Their hearing ability in water usually ranges from one to three kilohertz.
The duck’s hearing system is more accurate in determining the sound source when the angle of elevation range from -30 degrees to +30 degrees.
Another interesting thing you need to know about a duck’s hearing system is that it can differentiate between warning calls and mating calls.
They can also distinguish the sound of prey from that of predators. Once they detect a predator, they may warn their friends through alarm sounds before flying or swimming away for safety.
Can We See Duck Ears?
No, we cannot see duck ears as their ear parts are not similar to that of the human ear or other mammals in general. Instead of the pinnae, ducks have small holes just behind and below the eyes. You cannot see these holes clearly from afar as stiff feathers cover them.
The stiff feathers protect the holes from external elements and help to minimize distractions when flying. They also protect the eardrum from strong wind.
Also known as the tympanic membrane, the eardrum of a duck is located superficially in the duck’s hearing hole. You can see it when you gently lift the feathers that cover the holes.
Just like how the fleshy flaps in the human ear aid in collecting sound frequencies, the ducks’ stiff feathers also enhance the sound collection.
They form a funnel to direct the sound, making the ears to be incredibly sensitive. This also enables the ducks to know where the sound is coming from.
Through their ears, ducks can know whether there is a predator, such as a fox or a weasel, nearby.
Their visual sense also comes in handy as it allows them to confirm whether what they hear is true and assess the presence of a predator or food.
Do Ducks Have Really Good Hearing?
Ducks have a great sense of hearing as they can hear sounds up to 400 yards. They know they are prey animals for many predators and must be watchful all the time. These birds can hear different sounds and differentiate their sources. They can know whether a sound comes from above, below, or at the same level, they are.
Although duck ears function similarly to the human ear, they still hear and perceive sounds nicely. That’s why they can communicate with their mates and ducklings.
Ducks always walk as a group to look for food, share experiences, and warn each other about any detected dangers. The hearing sense is vital for all these activities.
Even in noisy flocks, a duck can communicate with their mates and young ones with ease.
The most interesting thing about ducks’ hearing system is that it starts functioning effectively even before the duckling has hatched.
A duckling can listen and master the sound of their mother’s vocals to ensure that they will recognize her and respond to her directions when out of the shell. They are also able to distinguish between the mother’s sound and that of other ducks. This makes it easy for the mom to guide and warn their young ones in times of danger.
Summary – Do Ducks Have Ears?
While ducks may not have visible external ears, they have functional inner ears that enable them to hear sounds from different sources.
Their ears are small holes located slightly below their eyes, and we cannot see them since they are covered by feathers. The covering feathers protect the hearing holes and help in the collection of sounds.
Through the small holes, waterfowls can easily communicate with their young ones and mates.
Overall, ducks have a good sense of hearing as they can hear a call or sounds from a long distance and differentiate where the sound is coming from.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Allyson Beaucourt on Unsplash