The Reason Why Water Rolls Off a Duck’s Back

A viscid episode of KQED Deep Look takes a look at the old saying “like water off a duck’s back” and proceeds to explain exactly the physiological reasons why this adage is quite literally accurate. They go over the difference between down and feathers, how their feathers make ducks, geese, and other birds water repellent, and how the uropygial gland, which sits above their tail feathers, allows the birds to make themselves completely waterproof as they groom.

Ducks and geese spend *a lot* of time preening their all-weather feathers. This obsessive grooming – and a little styling wax from a hidden spot on their backside – maintains the microscopic feather structure that keeps them warm and dry in frigid waters.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.