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Home Adaptations Beaks Straining
Northern Shoveler (female and male)

Northern Shoveler (female and male)
(Courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine/NGPC)

A beak doesn't have to be long or pointed to help catch the daily dinner.

For example, most ducks have broad, flat beaks. Maybe you've seen a duck dip its harmless-looking beak into the water.

It might look like the duck is doing this because it's thirsty. Actually, the duck could be hungry. The water contains food that will fill the bill, and to get it, the duck fills its bill.

A duck has tiny, comb-like structures around the edge of its beak. These structures look like little teeth, but they aren't. They're called lamellae and are formed from the mandible (the upper or lower jaw).

Lamellae help the lucky duck (or other waterfowl) who has them to strain small animals, insects and plants out of the water and the mud.

Some ducks, like mergansers, have narrower beaks with sharper, saw-like ridges around the edges. The merganser can use these ridges like teeth to assist in catching and securing small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans.


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