Do Ducks Have Ears? (Can They Hear Us?)

Hearing is the sense that we use to understand everything around us through an organ that we are all familiar with, the ear. It is very important in communication, how much in the human world, in the animal world, perhaps even more.

I always wondered how animals perceive different sounds, especially those whose ears we don’t even see, such as ducks. Most of you probably saw or heard about the duck call, but did you ever wonder how ducks listen to it? Where are their ears?

Do Ducks Have Ears?

Ducks indeed have ears that we don’t see. They don’t have an outer ear which we usually see on humans or other mammals. Ducks have small holes on both sides of their head, behind and just below the eyes. These holes are covered with soft feathers (auriculars) to protect them.

Ducks, the same as humans, rely on their ears, and hearing in general, to communicate with each other and to locate food which is very important for their survival.

How do ducks hear?

Since ducks don’t have an outer ear (external appendages) that helps us humans and other mammals identify where the sounds are coming from, they use the whole head to trace the sound coming from above, below, or at the same level as they are.

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A German study by researchers at Technische Universitat Munchen has shown that birds localize sound by using their entire heads like giant outer ears.

Do Ducks Have Ears? Infographic
Do Ducks Have Ears? Infographic

The researchers actually examined the eardrums of crows, ducks, and chickens, measuring the volume of sounds that hit the birds’ eardrums at different angles, finding that sounds hit different positions of eardrums at different frequencies, which is at the end connected with their eye level.

Ducks can hear the difference between distress calls and mating calls. They also hear their predator as well as their prey. They always walk in a group and warn each other about potential dangers.

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Ducks can even hear their mother’s voice before they are hatched. A duckling wants to ensure that it recognizes its mother’s voice when it’s out of the shell, so it listens and learns the sound of its mother’s voice to a beat. Incredible, isn’t it?

Can ducks mimic sounds?

Vocal learning is rare in the animal kingdom, but still, it’s very possible. We all know parrots and songbirds can learn to make specific sounds but can ducks do it too? To my surprise, I have learned they can.

It all started with one Australian musk duck that imitated speech. Australian musk ducks can imitate different sounds, even human speech. Ripper is the duck‘s name that mimicked the sounds he heard, probably from his caretaker at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

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Ripper was mimicking sounds of doors slamming shut and one interesting phrase: “you bloody fool.” Researchers are not sure did he actually say “fool” or “food.” It is a mind-blowing thing when you say something to an animal, and then the animal responds. His caretaker probably felt like Dr. Dolittle. Who would blame him?

Can ducks learn their names?


Ducks have a similar intelligence level to dogs. They are trainable, you can teach them many interesting tricks, and yes, you can teach ducks to respond when calling their name if you start with their training quite early.

The more time you spend with them, the more comfortable they become with you as they like to be petted, and they will respond to you.

Ducks are fast learners, and if you spend time with them and offer them special treats, they can learn as many tricks as you want.

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What is the duck call?

For those who don’t know what exactly a duck call is, it’s either the sound imitation process or the actual instrument that person is using to imitate the sound of the duck. It’s a whistle used usually by hunters to lure ducks.

Duck calls were mostly made from wood, but today they are mainly constructed from plastic and rubber. The most common high-quality duck call materials are still wood and acrylic.

Acrylic duck calls are much louder and carry sound much further. Therefore are usually used in large open spaces. Wood duck calls are more suitable for hunting in smaller and swampy areas.

Before this tool got mass-produced, hunters relied on their own voices to attract ducks. No matter what device or process is used in the end, the duck call should be able to imitate four basic sounds, and those are as follows: the quack, the feed call, the comeback, and the hail call.

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