When a “Bill” is More Than a Dollar (From Janet)
How do ducks breathe? Amazingly, some people think that ducks draw breath through their butts, AND/OR that they can breathe underwater. False, and false.
But what IS true, is that if a duck’s bill is compromised, breathing can become challenging, if not impossible.
Why the concern? Because in the wintry weather, or the freak ice storms, or even this weekend, where we are having (hopefully) our last snow/freeze of the season, in Western New York, a duck’s bill can freeze over, and in some cases, freeze completely shut.
And yes, this applies to ALL bird types, but seems to be most prevalent in swans and other water fowl. Why? Because water fowl spend the majority of their time in or around the water, mainly foraging for food. This means repeatedly dunking their bills in the water. And what happens during extreme cold, when water is involved? Yep, it freezes. Water on a duck’s bill is no different. Dunk, get wet, freeze, repeat.
And then you get this:
Most times, that’s okay. A duck can survive with some ice on their bill, as long as they still can open it to eat and breathe.
But some times, you get this:
And then that duck gets into trouble.
Ducks breathe through their bills. Yes, they can breathe through their mouths also.
But, BUT – if a bill becomes completely iced over, it closes off the nostrils (those holes located on top of the bill, called nares), and in the very worst scenario, it freezes the bill completely shut.
For any bird, the inability to use their bill becomes a struggle to live. Literally. Without being able to have use of their bills, any bird will soon succumb to starvation and suffocation.
Both equally awful.
What can you do?
If you come across ANY bird with heavy ice on it’s bill, DON’T just take that interesting picture and walk away (believe it or not, that’s been done before – people are out taking pictures or walking in the park, they see a duck with a frozen bill and think it’s “neat”. We need to take that one step farther and think about the situation that duck is in. For that bird, it’s not “neat”, it’s deadly).
DO call Animal Control or your local Humane Society immediately, with the description of the bird and the location.
DO stay to watch where the bird goes (as best as you can) until help arrives.
DO pursue making additional calls to ensure that someone will come to the aid of that bird.
It takes a while for Spring to show the warmer side of the season. For many animals, and birds, Spring is still a miserable time of year. Snow, ice, freezing sleet, slushy cold mud – it still all happens in the Spring. It’s happening RIGHT NOW in Western New York.
Remember, you can JUST DO SOMETHING to save a life. And you will be saving a life.
Never turn your back.