Duck Anatomy – External and Internal Features with Labeled Diagram

You may consider the duck as the happiest poultry species on the planet. The duck has excellent value to its owner as a source of eggs and meat. As a poultry keeper and a veterinary student, you might know the fundamentals of duck anatomy. 

Excellent, here I will show you both the external and internal organs anatomy of a duck with a labeled diagram. You will get a list of interesting anatomical facts of a duck so that you may compare it with other poultry species. 

First, I will introduce the different body parts of a duck with you. Later, I will describe the essential internal organs from duck with diagrams. 

Unique features of duck anatomy

Before going into the details, I would like to provide some interesting facts about both the external and internal anatomy of the duck. These might increase your interest to know more about the anatomical points of a duck. 

But, make sure you know the anatomical facts of other poultry species. If you have that basic knowledge, then it will be easy for you to understand. 

Here, I will enlist the anatomical features of duck in comparison to chicken. 

  • A soft and leathery bill is present in a duck, whereas you will find a beak in a chicken. 
  • Duck has a wide, flat underbody with a short leg and broad shoulder. 
  • The externally visible contour features almost cover all bodies of a duck. 
  • You will find an exceptional webbed toe in a duck leg that helps in swimming. 
  • A well-developed and bilobed uropygial gland lie dorsal to the caudal vertebrae near the tip of the duck’s tail. You will also find the same uropygial gland in chicken but less developed than the duck. 
  • The feathers of the duck’s wing consist of fight feathers and coverts. 
  • There is a large bony orbital cavity and beak-shaped pyramidal face present on a skull. 
  • You will find the notarium in the duck skeleton like the chicken. But these vertebrae in duck remain freely moveable. 
  • You will also find the synsacrum and pygostyle in the duck skeleton as found in the chicken. 
  • The small intestine of duck is more typical than that of chicken. 
  • There is a sizeable bony dilation on the left side of the syrinx (syringeal bulla) of a duck that almost fills the thoracic inlet. 

Some other interesting facts about duck anatomy are shown on the labeled diagram at the end of this article. 

External body parts of duck anatomy

Knowing the external body parts of duck anatomy is very important both for veterinary students and farm owners. Here, I will discuss the body shape, wings, tail, feathers, eye, bill, feet, and more from a duck. 

Duck anatomy diagram external
Duck anatomy diagram external

After reading this part of the article, you will get a basic idea of the different body parts of a duck. You need to know the following parts from the body of a duck. 

  • Bill with bean of a duck
  • Nostril of a duck
  • Chin and throat of a duck 
  • Crown of a duck
  • Eye, ear, and nape of a duck
  • Neck, flank, and abdomen of a duck
  • Mantle, back, and wing of a duck
  • Tail and uropygial or preen gland of duck
  • Shank, feet, and toe of a duck
  • The keel of a duck
  • Different types of feathers (wing flight feathers, flight tail feathers, coverts, and more)

You will find all the features of the duck’s body in the labeled diagram. You should know these external features of the duck in detail. 

The body shape of a duck

The shape of the body of a duck is different than that of a chicken. If you observe, you will see a smooth body in a duck. The underbody of a duck is wide and flat, but the underbody is not flat in chicken. This shape and appearance of the body help them to remain stable during swimming in water. 

You will find short legs and broad shoulders in a duck compare to the chicken’s legs. If the duck flippers upside down, it is challenging for them to right themselves due to their short legs. 

The neck of a duck is generally shorter than that of a chicken. But you may find some exceptionally long neck in some breed of duck. 

Bill and nostril of a duck 

You will find a long and broadbill present in duck anatomy. The bill of duck covers with keratin. In addition, it is soft and leathery in appearance. 

There is a rigid plate present at the rostral end of the bill. This is the nail or bean of a duck. So, you will find two nails at the upper and lower part of the bill. 

You will find numerous minute canals that contain dermal papillae and caries mechanoreceptor nerves ending. The upper and the lower nails, along with their associate dermis, form the complex sensory organs. 

Do you know the function of these complex sensory organs? Well, the complex sensory organ is essential for the sensory discrimination of the feed. The other most crucial role of the nail is nipping off tough roots and stems. 

You may find different colors in the bill of a duck. Generally, in a yellow or orange bill, there may occur a dark spot or streak. This is not any problem with the bill of a duck. It is normal and indicates the higher eggs production for a duck. 

There are other different functions of the bill of a duck. The duckbills are well-adopted to collect feed from water, catch flying insects, and root out underground morsels. 

You will find a nostril that locates near the head of the duck. With the help of the nostril, a duck can dabble in shallow water and breath simultaneously. 

Feathers of a duck 

The whole body of a duck covers with a great abundance of feathers. You will find the contour feathers that consist of flight feathers of the wing, tails, and general feathers of the head, neck, trunk, and limbs. 

The contour feather overlies the other types of feathers of a duck body. You will also find some other extraordinary feathers on the underside of a duck body that provide comfort during swimming on the water. 

The duck usually preens and oils its feathers several times a day. They have a well-developed preen gland that produces water repellents. The duck usually uses their bills to spread the oil or water repellent from the uropygial or preen glands. 

Wing anatomy of a duck

You will find relatively long, narrow, and pointed wings (for flighting duck). On the other hand, you will find broad and rounded wings in some of the duck species. The second type of wing anatomy is common for most ducks. 

Due to the presence of broad and rounded wings, they are unable to fly. The wing anatomy of a duck is differing from that of a chicken. 

The feathers of the duck’s wing consist of flight feathers, remiges, and coverts. The remiges are either primary feathers attaches to the metacarpal and phalanges bone or secondary feathers attaching to the ulna bone. 

All the secondary feathers and the inner primaries of a duck are movable. But the outer primary feathers of the duck is almost fixed. The flight feathers of a duck cover proximally by rows of wing coverts. 

Eye of a duck

You know the vision of a duck is sharper than any other animal on the planet. The duck can see nearly three hundred and sixty degrees without moving its head. This is because of the location of the eyes of a duck. 

There is a large gland that lies on the caudomedial aspect (left nictating membrane) of the eyeball of a duck. The gland of the nictating membrane of a duck contains numerous plasma cells that help protect the eye against infection. 

In addition, you will find a minor lacrimal gland of the nictating membrane that lies at the lateral canthus attaches to the rim of the orbit. It drains into the conjunctival sacs of a duck. 

Feet and leg anatomy of a duck

You will find other exceptional feathers in the feet of duck anatomy. The duck posses a webbed toe and exceptionally short legs. Due to short legs, the duck can not run so fast compared to that of the chicken. 

But, the duck can swim well due to the presence of the webbed toe. The bone of the duck legs is not so strong as those of the chicken. There may be a chance to be an injury in the leg bones of a duck. 

So, you should avoid grasping the leg during the control of a duck. It is better to handle a duck by holding its neck or wing. 

Tail and uropygial gland of duck

You may find two types of a tail in the duck species. Some species of duck possess a short and rounded bottom. On the other hand, you may find a longer tail in some duck species. 

There are some particular types of feathers on the tail region of a duck shown in labeled pictures. You will find a well-developed bilobed uropygial gland on the dorsal aspect of the caudal vertebrae near the tip of the tail. 

The preen gland or uropygial gland help to keep the feathers waterproof and prevent their keratin from drying out and becoming brittle. They also help inhibit the growth of micro-organisms, so that skin infections in ducks are relatively rare. 

You will not find this gland in parrots and some the domestic pigeon. 

Back and keel of a duck.

Generally, you will find a moderately long back with a slightly convex top line in a duck. But in some breeds of duck, you may find a moderate arch from shoulder to the tail. 

You know, a keel of a duck is a fold of skin that hangs from the underbody. But sometimes, it may run the entire length of the body and brush the ground as the duck walk. 

The well-developed keels are not present in all breeds of duck. Some particular species of duck possess well-developed keels. 

Internal anatomy of a duck

Now, I will discuss the internal anatomy of a duck. Here, you will get only the essential anatomical facts of some internal organs of a duck. If you want to know the details of the anatomy of all internal organs, please read all the related articles from the bird anatomy section. 

In this part, you will learn the skeleton anatomy of the duck, exceptional features of the digestive tract, and respiratory system organs (especially in syrinx). Some of the outstanding anatomical facts of the duck are showing in the video. So, don’t miss that video if you want to know these exceptions from a duck. 

Okay, let’s discuss the different bones of a duck. Then I will try to cover the other anatomical features from internal duck organs. 

Bones of duck anatomy

Most of the bones of the duck skeleton are light and fused compare to other mammals. You will find almost similar osteological features in the bones that you found in chickens. 

The most characteristics features of duck bones are – 

Presence of an extensive orbital cavity infused bones in the skull of a duck.

Fusion occurs in most of the bones of duck vertebrae 

Presence of some special osteological features like – notarium, synsacrum, pygostyles, and others.

Contains stronger pectoral and pelvic girdles. 

Most of the bones of limbs are fused, or sometimes you may find the deletion of bones.

Presence of clavicle, furculum, and caudal extension in ribs. 

The notarium of duck consists of the last cervical and first three thoracic vertebrae. They get fused at the age of four months. The notarium, along with the synsacrum, gives the spine excellent rigidity. But these vertebrae in the duck remain freely movable compare to the chicken. 

In the duck, six free caudal vertebrae permit movement of the tail. The pygostyle consists of between four and six fused caudal vertebrae and provides attachment for the innermost tail feathers. 

There are five or six pairs of ribs in the duck, each rib consisting of a vertebral and sternal part. The vertebral portion of the duck ribs has a double articulation with the vertebral column. Again, the sternal region of the duck rib articulates with the sternum. 

The pectoral girdle of the duck consists of blade-like scapula, clavicle, and coracoid bones. In addition, the pelvic girdle of a duck is incomplete ventrally in some of the duck breeds. 

The other exceptional features of duck skeleton anatomy are showing on the labeled diagram. I hope you might learn with these duck-labeled diagrams. 

The digestive system of a duck

The duck’s tongue is adapted along with the lamellae of the bills either for straining organisms from water or for cropping grass and weeds. You will find a scoop-like process at the rostral part of the tongue of the duck. 

The esophagus of the duck forms a relatively indistinct spindle-shaped widening near to thoracic inlet. This structure represents the crop of the duck. 

In the duck, the wall of the terminal part of the thoracic esophagus contains aggregated lymphoid nodules. These nodules are commonly referred to as the esophageal tonsil in ducks. 

The structure of the different parts of the duck’s stomach is similar to those of the chicken. But the intestine of the duck is somewhat more typical than that of the chicken. 

The jejunum and ileum of the duck intestine arrange into several U-shaped permanent loops. The two limbs of each loop being joined together by dorsal mesentery in duck. 

In addition, the most proximal loop of the small intestine is the duodenal loop that encloses the pancreas of the duck. Again, it succeeds by several jejunal loops and ileal loops. 

The jejunal and ileal loop separates by the axial circles. That carries near its apex a vitelline diverticulum. Again, the structure of the large intestine is almost similar to that of chicken. 

Heart and blood vessels anatomy of a duck

In the heart and blood vessels anatomy of a duck, you will find some exceptional features than that of mammals. The heart of a duck is much more prominent on a bodyweight basis than that of mammals. 

You know the rate of contraction of the heart is very high, and its output is also relatively much greater. You will find the duck heart that lies in the ventral part of the thorax surrounded by the liver’s lobes. 

Again, you will find much fat in the coronary groove of duck’s heart. This is a good site for examining a duck for serous atrophy of fat. 

The right ventricle of the duck heart has a much thinner wall compared to the left and posses a smooth endocardial surface. You will find the left atrioventricular valve that forms with the cups and chordae tendineae. In contrast, the right atrioventricular valve of the duck heart is a muscular flap. 

The right jugular vein of the duck is much larger than that of the left one. It may see through the skin of the duck. You may collect the blood from the jugular vein, subclavian vein (wing vein), and shank vein (caudal tibia) of a duck. In some small breeds of duck, the left jugular vein may be absent. 

Respiratory organs of duck

The nasal cavities of the duck are separated by the median nasal septum at the level of nasal chonca and is incomplete ventrally. So, you will find communication in between the right and left nasal cavities of a duck. 

You will find four cartilage in the larynx of a duck. The cricoid cartilage of the duck’s larynx is scoop-shaped with left and right lateral wings. 

The body of the cricoid cartilage in the duck has a median ventral crest that projects dorsally into the lumen of the larynx. Again, the arytenoid cartilage of the duck is paired and from the margins of the glottis. 

You will find a syrinx in the duck that lies at the junction of the trachea and the right and left primary bronchi. In most duck breeds, the syrinx is partly tracheal and bronchial in origin and highly variable in structure. 

You will find variable ossified cartilage, vibrating membrane, and muscle in the structure of a syrinx. The anatomy of the duck syrinx is exceptional than that of the chicken. You will find an outstanding significant bony dilation on the left side of the syrinx. In duck, this structure is known as the syringeal bulla. 

Each lung of the duck is bright red, small, and triangular. You will not find any lobes in the lung of a duck. Unlike in mammals, the duck lung undergoes a minor change in volume during breathing. 

Other organs system of duck

The ischiatic nerve of the duck lies behind the femur and the muscle on the medial aspect of the leg. If you want to know more anatomical features of other parts or organs from a duck, you may watch the full video below. 

I hope you will get the information on the other different vital organs from a duck. 

Duck anatomy diagram

Here, I will show you again the duck anatomy diagram as a whole so that you may summarize your contents so quickly. I tried to show you the basic anatomical features of a duck. If you need more duck labeled diagrams, please let me know. Or, you may join to anatomy learner on social media to get more updates on duck labeled diagrams. 

Frequently asked questions on duck

Fine, again, in this part of this article, you will get the answers to the most commonly asked question on ducks. I will try to answer these questions in short form. If you have any questions on duck, then please let me know. 

Does a duck have thighs?

Yeah, the duck has their thighs. But you know ducks have an exceptionally short and wide legs. So, they also possess a short thing bone. The thigh bone of a duck consists of the femur. The thigh muscle is essential for i/m in duck. 

What is the exception found in duck bones?

The unique features of duck bones are enlisting below. Here I will enlist only the most essential parts from duck bones. 

Large orbital cavity and fused bones in the skull

Presence of notarium, synsacrum, pygostyle, and caudal extension in ribs


There are so many unique features present in both the internal and external anatomy of a duck compare to mammals. Again, you will find some variation in the external anatomy in different breeds of duck. I hope the duck internal anatomy labeled diagram might help you to identify the structures practically.

You might learn the details anatomical facts of bones, muscles, digestive organs from a duck.  

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