Can Ducks See in The Dark?

Ducks have a terrific vision that allows them to perceive their surroundings in the land, water, and air. These birds have such a great sense of sight that hunters must use unique camouflage.

However, it has been observed that these birds have difficulty moving around in the dark, leading others to wonder — can ducks see in the dark?

Can Ducks See In The Dark?

While ducks have phenomenal eyesight, they are unable to see well in the dark. This is because their eyes consist of more cone cells than rod cells, thus sacrificing night vision for color perception.

Ducks have terrific eyesight. However, their eyes are more used to adapting to daylight as opposed to nighttime. This is because of the abundance of photoreceptors responsible for daylight vision and color perception.

On the other hand, the photoreceptors responsible for low light and night vision are fewer in number. As a result, their ability to detect items and see in the dark is compromised. 

In any case, this doesn’t mean they are completely blind in less than ideal light settings.

While they may have trouble maneuvering in pitch dark scenes, they still maintain excellent vision during low light settings due to their ability to detect UV wavelengths and utilize blue light. 

Why Can’t Ducks See In The Dark?

Ducks, like most animals, adapt characteristics that serve their needs most — this is also true for their vision. There are many reasons why ducks cannot see in the dark.

It could be because of the eye structure, feeding habits, and active times.

Duck Eye Photoreceptors

Can Ducks See in The Dark?

As stated above, ducks have trouble perceiving their surroundings in the dark because they lack the right amount of photoreceptors that enable night vision.

Everything we see is just a result of our brain interpreting light. Light rays enter our eyes, and photoreceptors interpret them and send signals to our brains, forming the images we see.

The photoreceptors are neurons or specialized cells in our eyes that receive light. These cells are composed of two significant kinds: cone cells and rod cells.

Cone cells are photoreceptors in charge of vision in bright light settings such as daytime and color perception. They get their name from their unique cone-like shape that filters light on one end through a pigment. 

Duck eyes have a significant number of cone cells. In fact, they have four different kinds of cone cells: red, blue, green, and UV. This is one more than humans have (red, blue, green). 

While this enables them to see colors more vividly, these cells are only limited to set-ups that have bright light, such as the daytime.

Come nighttime; cone cells are rendered almost useless as the other types of photoreceptors take over — the rod cells. 

The rod cells are photoreceptors in charge of night and low-light vision. As indicated by its name, rod cells are leaner and resemble cylinders in structure.

These cells are highly efficient and can detect light and create images even in the darkest settings.

However, these cells cannot perceive color. Thus, everything viewed through these cells is often perceived in shades of gray. 

Typically, rod cells are the most abundant and most sensitive cells in animal eyes. However, with ducks, these cells are stunted. This greatly hinders the ability of ducks to visualize and detect movement at night

Active Times

Ducks are waterfowl that are diurnal by nature. This means they are usually active during the day and rest most of the night. 

Most of these birds go about their daily business, such as feeding, swimming, flying, and the like, during mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Alternatively, they spend their nights alternating between resting and socializing.

Given this behavior, these animals don’t really need to have night vision. Instead, ducks developed a great sense of sight in bright settings to better assist them in their activities.

This enhanced eyesight enables them to not only see better during the day but also detect threats and predators better through enhanced movement detection and the ability to see UV light.

How Do Ducks “See” At Night?

Can Ducks See in The Dark?

In addition to their diurnal nature, ducks are also semi-nocturnal, meaning they are active during some parts of the night — but not in the way most people think.

Given that, they have also adapted several other methods to “see” in the dark.


Aside from resting, these birds also tend to gather at night to groom and socialize with each other. However, because of their poor night vision, these ducks have to resort to using their other senses to attempt to “visualize” their surroundings. 

At night, these birds tend to rely more on their sense of hearing than their sense of sight. These ducks tend to quack to communicate with others and alert them of their location. The other ducks then follow the sound of the quacks until they eventually meet up.

Ducks also use these quacks to alert others about predators and other threats.

Using UV Light

Due to their extra UV cone cell, these birds have an excellent ability to see UV light or light in short waves. While this may not help them in pitch-black set-ups, the ability to see UV light can help them visualize their surroundings in low-light settings.

This skill can come in extremely handy, especially when it comes to detecting predators that lurk in the night. Several predator animals have coats or pelts reflecting UV light off their fur. 

Through this and their enhanced motion detection, they have greater chances of spotting potential threats and predators. This gives them a chance to escape and warn others of impending dangers.


Ducks have terrific daylight vision and can perceive a greater variety of colors and a wider area of land. However, they cannot see as well as others in the dark.

This makes it crucial for them to receive proper shelter at night as these birds can be highly vulnerable to several threats that lie in wait in the dark.

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