Duck Feet

It was a brutally cold Michigan winter day, and we were walking along the river near our home. The temperature was well below zero and the wind was blowing snow in sheets parallel to the ground. We came to a point used by boaters in the summer to put their boats into the river. Swimming just off the point there were a dozen mallard ducks, climbing up on ice floes and swimming along the edge of shore ice. It was hard not to feel sorry for these rugged little birds considering the harshness of the weather, but they seemed very content, feeding and regularly dunking their heads in the washing motion that we are so familiar with for these birds.

Ducks are designed to survive in an incredible range of climates. They do well in the heat of summer as they regularly dive cooling themselves in the water. In the winter however, it is a whole different story. The water is incredibly cold, and being a good absorber of heat, it can cause hypothermia in a human in a very short time. The duck however, is designed in such a way that the cold is not a problem even when it is in viciously cold water.

The feathers of a duck are waterproofed and provide incredible insulation. The chemical on the feathers is more concentrated on the outer feathers that are in the water, so the cold water never really makes contact with the skin where heat exchange would be a problem. The feet of a duck have capillaries that have a lace-like structure and weave among one another and are connected to blood vessels in the center of the duck's legs. When the feet and the outer parts of the duck's legs get cold, these outer vessels constrict, forcing blood in toward the center of the duck's legs. Arterial blood in the center of the leg exchanges heat with this blood, preserving the core temperature and protecting the duck from excessive heat loss. The outer layers of the legs are cold, but still functional.

Ducks have numerous devices which allow them to survive in all kinds of conditions. God's wisdom and planning is seen in everything around us--even duck feet.

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