Why Don’t Ducks Freeze Stuck on the Ice?

When going for a walk in winter, do you keep seeing ducks running around on the frozen lakes, and are you worried that the birds could freeze on? Fortunately, this concern is not at all appropriate – the animals have a clever system to escape the frost.

Ducks are Safe on the Ice

When the temperatures are in the minus range and the water surface of the lakes turns into a smooth ice surface, some nature lovers fear for the well-being of the ducks that live there. But the birds are absolutely winter-proof, explains expert Heinz Kowalski from the Naturschutzbund (NABU).

The animals are equipped with a so-called miracle net in their feet that prevents them from freezing on or in the ice. The network works as a heat exchanger and allows warm blood to flow continuously along with the already cooled blood in order to warm it up again.

Winter-proof Thanks to the Miracle Net in the Feet

The cold blood is only heated to such an extent that it is impossible to freeze solid. However, the blood does not get so hot that the ice could melt. This system allows ducks to stay on the ice for hours without sticking.

The miracle net on the feet is not the birds’ only protection from the cold. Because the down keeps the body warm at all times. The cover feathers on top protect the down from moisture and are regularly smeared with an oily secretion that the ducks produce themselves.

However, this frost protection does not apply to sick and injured ducks, whose protection against the cold could possibly be damaged – human help is needed here. To rescue you should always alert professionals and not dare to go out onto the ice yourself.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *