Why does a duck have tiny holes at the sides of its beak?


Ducks are fascinating creatures that have unique features that distinguish them from other birds. One of these features is their beak, which is an essential tool for their survival. Interestingly, ducks have tiny holes at the sides of their beak that serve a crucial purpose. In this article, we will explore the function of a duck’s beak, the anatomy of their beak, and the importance of the tiny holes on their beak.

Function of a duck’s beak

A duck’s beak is a critical tool that helps them survive in their environment. It serves several functions, including feeding, communication, and defense. The shape of the beak varies depending on the species of the duck and their feeding habits. For instance, ducks that feed on insects have a narrow, pointed beak, while those that feed on vegetation have broad, flat beaks.

The beak also plays a significant role in regulating the duck’s body temperature. Ducks have a network of blood vessels in their beaks that help them dissipate heat during hot weather and retain it during cold weather. In addition, the beak is an essential tool for grooming, preening, and cleaning their feathers.

Anatomy of duck’s beak

The duck’s beak is made up of a hard, bony structure covered by a thin layer of keratin, the same material that makes up human hair and nails. The beak is divided into two parts, the upper and lower mandible, which are joined by a flexible hinge.

The upper mandible is the top part of the beak, and it has two nostrils that are used for breathing. The lower mandible is the bottom part of the beak and is slightly longer than the upper mandible. It has a small, pointed projection called the nail, which is used for grasping and manipulating food.

What are the tiny holes on a duck’s beak for?

At the sides of a duck’s beak, near the base of the upper mandible, you will find two tiny holes. These holes are called nares, and they are used for breathing. Unlike humans, who breathe through their nostrils, ducks breathe through their nares, which are located on the sides of their beaks.

Importance of the holes to the duck

The nares on a duck’s beak are vital for their survival. They allow the duck to breathe while their beak is submerged in water, which is necessary for their feeding habits. Ducks are aquatic birds and spend a significant amount of time in the water, searching for food. Without the nares, they would not be able to breathe while their beak is underwater, which would make it impossible for them to feed.

How do the holes help the duck?

The nares on a duck’s beak allow them to breathe while their beak is underwater. When a duck dives into the water, they close their eyes and nostrils and rely on the oxygen stored in their blood to sustain them. As they search for food, they use their beak to filter out water and debris, leaving behind small aquatic animals, plants, and insects. The nares allow them to breathe while they do this, making it possible for them to spend extended periods underwater.

Role of the holes in breathing

The nares on a duck’s beak are unique because they have a complex system of bones, cartilage, and muscles that regulate the flow of air. When the duck dives underwater, the muscles around the nares contract, closing them off and preventing water from entering the respiratory system. When the duck surfaces, the muscles relax, allowing air to enter the lungs.

Relation of the holes with feeding habits

The nares on a duck’s beak are directly related to their feeding habits. As mentioned earlier, ducks use their beak to filter out water and debris while they search for food. The nares allow them to do this while still breathing, making it possible for them to feed in the water.

Other birds with similar beak structures

Ducks are not the only birds with nares on their beaks. Other birds, such as geese, swans, and some species of gulls, also have these tiny holes. However, the position and size of the nares on their beaks may vary depending on the species.


The tiny holes on a duck’s beak may seem insignificant, but they play a crucial role in their survival. These nares allow ducks to breathe while submerged in water, making it possible for them to feed and survive in their aquatic environment. Understanding the anatomy and function of a duck’s beak is essential for appreciating these fascinating creatures and their unique adaptations.

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