As a keen birder, you may have wondered do ducks have tongues? Why do ducks have tongues? The nature of this organ elicits both confusion and curiosity. There is a lot of confusion about this organ among duck lovers, most people do not even know whether ducks have tongues or not.
Most birds have tongues quite similar in appearance to human’s but of course, they serve a different purpose.
Almost all the birds lack teeth, they use the tongue for different functions to compensate for the lack of vital subsidiary organs like teeth.
Ducks have similar attributes to other birds, so, which makes one question, do they have tongues as well? How does it look? Do ducks use tongues to quack?
For duck-tongue novices, we have brought answers to all the queries that have been bugging them for a while. It is time to get answers and all the additional information. Stay with us to learn about the duck tongues.
Do Ducks Have Tongues?
Yes, ducks have tongues like other birds, it is a delicate and prized organ for delicacy lovers. There are countless ways to cook duck tongues and are loved by many people for their delicious flavor. Just search “duck tongue recipes” and you will be surprised to see the results.
From afar, it almost looks like a human-shaped tongue, however, upon close examination, one would find out that the human tongue looks nothing like a duck’s.
There is a lot going on in the duck’s tongue, it looks like human tongues from a distance because of their bills. It is where the tongue has to fit which is not pointy like most birds.
Duck Tongue Anatomy
The duck’s tongue seems small and insubstantial as it is barely 2 inches in length. It is surrounded by a little hint of meat and papery thin layers of cartilage. The duck tongue is prized and known for being pockets of fat.
According to a study, Hair and spines on duck’s tongues are not as profound and predominant as penguins. However, they exist to serve a special purpose and act as a sieve.
The tongue in geese and ducks helps with foraging capabilities.
Unlike tongues of mammals which are boneless, the avian or duck tongues have a bone that runs throughout the organ.
This bone supports the larynx by forming a “hyoid apparatus”. A person can observe it by looking at the tongue the wide flat part is hard bone, whereas, the softer, whiter, narrower end is cartilage.
The tongue is covered by tiny papillae that protrude on either side.
The tongues of cows and pigs look quite similar to muscle meat with a little difference in texture, however, a duck’s tongue does not look anything like duck meat.
Why Do Ducks Need Tongues?
It is a specialized organ that does not exist without purpose. Not all birds have similar tongues, each bird has somewhat different tongues to carry out different tasks.
Similarly, the duck tongue is built for a special foraging function.
Ducks, being creatures of both land and water, tend to forage for food in the mud and shallow water.
They use their tongues like pumps to filter out mud and water. Wondering how they filter out mud and water? Here’s how
Firstly, ducks depress their tongue to allow mud and water to enter the mouth, then, the tongue is pressed against the roof of the mouth to filter out dirt and water from the spines leaving solid food particles behind.
Hair and spines allow the duck to separate food from the water and dirt, it can be used to grip food and hold on to the grass or any other food item.
Do Ducks Have Taste Buds?
It may come as a surprise to you but ducks do not have taste buds, unlike mammalian tongues. Taste buds are replaced by tiny papillae which are present on either side with an approximate length of 5 cm.
This feature helps grab the food, direct it towards the esophagus to facilitate swallowing.
Do Ducks Need Tongues to Quack?
Most people believe that the duck tongue has a lot of contribution in letting out their, distinctive, signature quack.
We would like to burst their bubble, it can only be used to grab, filter, and manipulate food and forage. It does not contribute in any way to making any sound at all.
Characteristics of a Duck Tongue
All bird tongues have different physiology and other characteristics, some tongues are more specialized than the others. Let’s discuss them in detail.
It is quite unusual for tongues to have bones, as you know about the human tongue’s anatomy, it does not have a single bone.
However, duck and all bird tongues have bones and cartilages. It also goes by the term Hyoid Apparatus which allows easy movement of the tongue.
Birds with larger tongues have well-developed bones, however, duck tongues are usually small about 2 inches long.
Bird tongues are covered by a layer of cells, ducks have a hardened layer at the tip called a lingual nail.
Birds like parrots, ducks, swans, geese, and chickens have hardened layers at the tip of the tongue. Composed of Keratin, this lets birds use tongues as a spoon to gather up seeds, food, and grains.
Instead of taste buds, duck tongues have Papillae, barb-like structures that face backward allowing the movement of food down to the gullet, facilitating swallowing.
Ducks, along with other birds, have salivary glands. These functions are similar to human tongues, producing saliva to protect from germs and bacteria. It also helps wet the food to break down easily.
What Color is the Duck’s Tongue?
Bird tongues come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and distinctive markings. Bird tongues can be either black, pink, and blue. The duck’s tongue is pink in color.
The flavor of Duck Tongue
As discussed earlier, duck tongues are cooked in countless ways and have a unique flavor.
Besides other unique characteristics like bone and cartilage, it has a large proportion of fat relative to muscle.
Freshly fried duck tongues have a crisp surface and a creamy, slightly fatty interior that melts in your mouth. Deep-fried duck tongues have unique flavor and texture.
Duck tongues along with a variety of species in the waterfowl family Anatidae like swan and geese are edible and delicious. Duck tongue is a delicacy, therefore, it is a bit expensive to purchase.
Putting it all together, bird tongues are not considered a vital organ by most people, but, it helps with different day-to-day operations like foraging food. Duck tongues serve several purposes by filtering out food from mud and water as well as facilitate swallowing. The power of this 2 inches long organ should not be underestimated in any way.
More Duck Facts
- Histomorphological study on the tongue of the duck in the Caribbean with relation to feeding habit
- The development of lingual glands in the domestic duck