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Can Ducks Smell? (Food, Corn, Human Scent, Etc.)

The smell is the ability to detect the odor or scent of something by using the organs that are present in the nose. But many animals do not smell with their nose or simply cannot do so.

For example, a snake does have nostrils but it perceives the smell of objects around it with the help of its tongue which is sensitive to scent molecules in the air.

Can ducks smell? (Food, Corn, Human Scent, etc.)

Ducks have two nostrils present high on their beaks. Their sense of smell is the least developed but, they can detect scents in varying degrees. They use this sense of smell to distinguish foods, mates, and their offspring. They can also smell danger and decide when to be extra careful.

Ducks have a different way of using their sense of smell. It is different from most mammals and birds. Even though their sense of smell is the least developed among the others, they still can pick up scents of various elements present around them.

Food scents:

Similar to most animals and humans, ducks can smell their food. Their sense of smell allows them to differentiate between what is good for them and what is not. So, they can also decide what to eat and what to avoid.

Corn scent:

Like foods, ducks can smell corn too. They can pick up smells of soured corn and sweet taters that may be under the water. Also, they can smell rotten corn that may be lying under the sun for too long.

Human scent:

However, ducks cannot smell humans. They do not recognize the human scent and thus, do not understand the smell of humans.

It may be possible that ducks can smell humans but, if they do, they do not associate a human scent with danger and so remain calm around humans.

Water scent:

Ducks cannot also smell water scent. Since most water bodies do not give off a strong smell, ducks do not get the water scent. So, they are unable to recognize the scent given by water, just like the human scent.

Are ducks sensitive to smells?

No, ducks are not sensitive to smells. Ducks being insensitive to smell is mainly because their sense of smell is not highly developed.

Compared to dogs and some birds, ducks do not have such a highly developed sense of smell. They can detect various scents and can distinguish between different plants and food via smell. They can only smell in short distances and sometimes cannot smell objects very close to them.

How well can ducks smell?

Ducks cannot smell that well. As mentioned earlier, they do not have a well-developed sense of smell. As a result, they cannot smell as good as some other birds or animals.

They can smell enough to distinguish between their food, few plants, their mates, and their offspring. Other than these, they can hardly smell anything else since their sense of smell is one of their least developed senses.

How does a duck’s sense of smell work?

Ducks have a way of smelling that is very different from animals and humans. Although they have nostrils on their beaks which they use to breathe, they do not smell through those. The way their sense of smell works, compared to ours, is incredible.

Ducks perceive the sense of smell through sound. Studies have shown that they have cavities for smelling organs, but they do not have such organs. The cavity is shaped particularly like a disperser of the sound pulse emitted from the vocal cords of the duck.

This technique of smelling is called magnetic smell. Having such function allows ducks to smell with ultrasound. This magnetic sense of smell explains the reason why in close environments, ducks cannot smell effectively.

How do ducks search for food in nature?

Over time, ducks have adapted to the environment around them in different ways to find sustenance and survive. Various categories of ducks use their methods to search for food.

During the nighttime:

Ducks do not only search for food in the daylight. They also search for food during the nighttime in the darkness.

Wild ducks are omnivores but, their diet mainly consists of consuming vegetation as they live on aquatic plants and a few small animals and insects.


The most common way ducks search for food is by dabbling. Most ducks can be spotted dipping their beaks into the water. They take some water into their beaks which contain various insects, pondweeds, and other plants, and eat them.


Some ducks dive under the surface of the water to search for food. And then, when they get close to their food, they dive and take the food in their beak and consume it.


A few ducks are well-adapted to grazing on drylands so, they walk on the drylands around water bodies searching for food. These ducks mostly eat dry foods as found on land.


Quite an insignificant number of ducks use this method. They uproot small grasses and sedges to eat the roots and tubers of plants.


Ducks using this method slurp up water in their beak. The small comb-like structures that are present in the bills of ducks are called lamellae. While the slurped-up water passes through these, food items are extracted and eaten by the duck.

It is worth noting that all ducks have lamellae in their beaks independent of their type or category. These structures in their bills help them filter the water that ducks take in through their nostrils and beaks.

As the water passes down their throat, the lamellae filter food items such as small invertebrates and seeds and, it also filters out the inedible elements.

How far can ducks smell?

Ducks cannot smell that far. Ducks can only smell within a few feet. They can smell yet, not effectively enough.

In close ranges, ducks cannot smell effectively. The ineffectiveness of their smelling is because they smell with the help of sound. Ducks have a magnetic sense of smell which helps them to orient with the magnetic fields of the earth.

Can ducks smell fear?

Yes, ducks can smell fear. Although ducks are not sensitive to the smell around them, they are considered to have special senses like birds. Ducks, like other wild animals, have a special instinct.

Along with that, they have a high level of sensitivity, psychological powers, innate instincts, and very fast reactions. They also have tangible perception as well as the ability to communicate through telepathy with other ducks, according to repeated studies.

Having a high sensitivity to their surroundings, they can sense when something is off. Ducks do not rely on coincidences, probabilities, or just pure luck. They use their senses to perceive the sensation of fear. Additionally, their magnetic sense makes them a biological compass.

This magnetic sense provides them with navigation skills, precise position determination, and also weather forecasts. As a result, they can easily understand the upcoming weather and its nature.

Final Thoughts

Ducks cannot smell most elements around them since the sense of smell is not among the most developed sensations they have. Instead, through other perceptions, they have adapted to their surroundings. They have a magnetic sense of smell and are pretty sensitive to any changes in their environment.