Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

What Are Duck Feet Called? (Ducks Webbed Feet)

Ducks have palmate feet, which is a type of webbed feet. They have three front-facing toes, which are connected with webbing, and a back-facing toe.

Duck feet are fascinating because they’re different from other bird feet.

Their feet are webbed, which enables them to swim better and faster, and provides them with a few advantages.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at ducks’ feet, how they use them, how their feet are built, and more.

What Are Duck Feet Called?

A duck’s feet are called palmate, which means that they’re webbed. The webbing on their feet makes it easier for ducks to swim in the water. 

Ducks have what is called a palmate foot. This is merely one out of multiple types of webbed feet.

They have three front-facing toes, all connected with webbing, and a back-facing tow (the hallux), which is separated.

Ducks also have scales on their feet. These scales help the ducks get a better grip when they’re hunting for food and/or walking around on moist and wet surfaces.

duck feet close up

Types of Webbed Feet

Webbed feet are common among waterfowl and other animals. Webbed feet have evolved multiple times in many different species because they offer increased swimming abilities to the animal that have them. [1]

There are generally four types of webbed feet:

  1. Palmate
  2. Totipalmate
  3. Semipalmate
  4. Lobate

Related: Animals With Webbed Feet

Palmate Feet

Palmate feet are most commonly found in aquatic animals, such as ducks. Here, the three front-facing toes are connected with webbing, while the back-facing toe is separated.

Palmate-webbed feet are very efficient at swimming and navigating through water. They allow the animal to move quickly and smoothly through the water and also provide stability and balance.

Palmate Feet

Totipalmate Feet

Totipalmate webbing is found on birds with four webbed toes. This type of webbing allows the bird to use all four toes to push off the water simultaneously. This makes swimming even more efficient. [2]

While this type of webbing isn’t seen in ducks or swans, it’s found in gannets, pelicans, and frigatebirds.

Totipalmate Feet

Semipalmate Feet

Semipalmate feet are structured exactly like palmate feet. The only difference is the webbing. Semipalmate feet have less webbing, as it doesn’t extend the full length of the toes.

This type of webbing is found in some plovers, sandpipers, herons, and some breeds of chickens.

Semipalmate Feet

Lobate Feet

Lobate feet are characterized by having lobes of skin on the toes. This doesn’t connect the toes, but still provides additional surface area for improved swimming capabilities.

When the birds swim, the skin will expand and contract.

The lobate foot helps these animals move through the water more easily, as well as provides extra surface area for propulsion. 

Some mammals, such as otters, have semi-lobate feet, which have a less pronounced flap of skin but still provide some degree of webbing.

Lobate Feet

Do Ducks Have Feet or Flippers?

Ducks have feet. Flippers are broad flattened limbs, adapted for improved swimming abilities. While duck’s feet have evolved in much the same way, they’re still called feet.

Webbed feet and flippers have evolved very similarly. They’ve both evolved to provide the animals with more surface area to propel them through the water better.

However, there are distinct differences, such as the fact that palmate feet have toes, and flippers do not.

wild duck

How Do Ducks Use Their Feet?

Ducks use their feet for a variety of activities and they are an important part of the ducks’ anatomy. Thanks to their webbed feet, ducks are able to swim, walk and fly with ease.

The webbed feet of ducks give them an advantage in the water. 

Their webbed feet propel them through the water with ease. The ducks’ feet also allow them to move more easily underwater than other fowl. [3]

Ducks also use their feet to walk and fly. 

The webbing between their toes helps them maintain their balance when they are walking or flying. 

The ducks’ feet help keep them warm by providing insulation for their feet. 

In the winter, ducks will often stand in water to keep their feet from freezing. The water helps to maintain the ducks’ body temperature and keep their feet warm.

duck on water

Why Do Ducks Have Webbed Feet?

Ducks have webbed feet due to evolution. Over many years, ducks with better swimming capabilities survived better than the ones that couldn’t swim as well. Hence, these were the ones to mate.

All animals on earth are as they are because they were the best to survive. The animals that survived the best, would be the ones to mate, and hence pass their genes on to the new generations.

Ducks with webbed feet were better hunters, and better swimmers, which allowed them to mate more and pass on their genes for webbed feet.

Ducks are able to use their webbed feet as paddles to propel themselves through the water. The webbing between their toes gives them a greater surface area to push against the water, which helps them move faster and swim further.

swimming duck

Webbed Feet Improve Swimming

Ducks are well known for their webbed feet, which play a crucial role in swimming. The webbing between a duck’s toes acts as a paddle, providing more surface area for pushing against the water. 

Related: How fast can a duck swim?

This allows ducks to swim faster, without using as much energy.

Escape From Predators

Webbed feet helps duck escape from predators by making them faster in the water. The webbing between the toes acts as a paddle, providing more propulsion and agility. It allows ducks to quickly swim away from danger and hide in safety.

While on land, webbed feet also help them move more quickly, allowing them to outrun potential threats. 

By having webbed feet, ducks are better able to protect themselves and their young from becoming prey.

mallard ducks

Control Body Temperature

Webbed feet are not just used for swimming; they also help ducks control their body temperature. 

Ducks can spread the webbing between their toes out and create more surface area. This allows the Ducks to dissipate heat more effectively. When the weather is hot, Ducks will stand in water or mud to cool off. 

By spreading their toes out, they can increase the surface area of their feet and get a more cooling effect.

In cold weather, webbed feet help ducks stay warm by trapping air between the toes. This trapped air acts as insulation, keeping the ducks’ feet warm. They can also shut off circulation to their legs, which enables them to stand on freezing surfaces for extended periods of time. [4]

Conclusion

Palmate webbed feet are a defining characteristic for ducks. The ducks swim better, control their body temperature, catch more fish, and avoid predators.

While ducks have palmate webbed feet, there are three other types of webbed feet as well: totipalmate, semipalmate, and lobate.

FAQS

How Many Legs Do Ducks Have?

Ducks have two legs, but they have four limbs: two legs, and two wings. When ducks swim underwater, they use their legs to paddle and propel themselves across the surface of the water.

When in flight or when taking off, ducks flap their wings rapidly to generate thrust. Their sturdy yet light bodies allow them to quickly take off from the water’s surface.

Why Are Ducks’ Feet Orange?

Ducks’ feet become orange during late fall and winter due to changes in hormone levels. The hormones involved are melanin and adrenaline, which increase due to the mating and pairing season.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.