How about those Ducks in cold water, winter ice and snow? My last post mentioned what ducks face in our region. The ice and cold makes many hardships for them, but generally not one of keeping warm. It’s all in the feathers! See why…
Feathers help the ducks stay afloat while swimming and the air trapped in feathers keep them warm too. And those diving ducks? The feathers make them fast in diving somewhat like the aerodynamic attributes in flying.
The birds adjust feather position from stimulation of the nerves where the feather meets the body. This helps them glide through the water. It also lets them puff out the feather, trapping air to keep them warm.
The strong contour feathers protect birds from wind. They are made from beta-keratin which is water resistant. Strong, it helps keep feathers from wearing. Feathers work to keep water out keeping the duck dry. Features have interlocking barbs with a coating that is either waxy or oily, shedding water like the phrase “water off a duck’s back”.
White birds in winter are better camouflaged against predators, so feather color has protective qualities. Also, some ducks may be lightly colored on their stomachs to camouflage them from predators while swimming or flying. Feathers are and an amazing body part. Another thing feathers do, they can be used as a visual signal to communicate with each other. Feathers did not likely appear first on birds though, the dinosaurs had them first! I wonder if feathers helped in the Ice Age?