Can Ducks See Color?

Because waterfowl have a high number of cones — which dictate color vision in humans — they have color vision where colors are more vivid than what humans have the ability to see (Wood duck photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Question: Can ducks see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Well, this actually is a fairly entertaining question since waterfowl are much different than many other animals — especially us!

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) waterfowl biologist Shaun Oldenburger, waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.

Are pier anglers considered shore-based anglers?
Question: I know that rockfish, lingcod and all groundfish are open year round to shore-based anglers. Does that include pier anglers? Seems to me that piers are shore-based, but thought I’d best check to be sure since I don’t see it spelled out in the regs. (David B.)

Answer: Yes, pier anglers are considered shore-based anglers.

Hunting deer after dropping their antlers?
Question: I have a question about a deer being legal to take after it drops its antlers. I hunt during the late archery deer season and was hunting one buck for about a month. By the end of the A-22 archery season, the buck had dropped both antlers. The regs read as follows:

§351. Forked-Horn Buck, Antlerless and Either-Sex Deer Defined.

  • (a) Forked-Horn Buck Defined. For the purpose of these regulations a forked-horn buck is defined as a male deer having a branched antler on either side with the branch in the upper two-thirds of the antler. Eyeguards or other bony projections on the lower one-third of the antler shall not be considered as points or branches.
  • (b) Antlerless Deer Defined. For the purpose of these regulations, antlerless deer are defined as female deer, fawns of either sex other than spotted fawns, and male deer with an unbranched antler on one or both sides which is not more than three inches in length.
  • (c) Either-Sex Deer Defined. For the purpose of these regulations, either-sex deer are defined as antlerless deer as described in section 351 (b), or legal bucks that have two or more points in the upper two-thirds of either antler. Spike bucks may not be taken.

The way I read the regs, it would be illegal to shoot a buck after it dropped its antlers. Can you clarify this for me please? (Jim P.)

Answer: Yes, you are correct. That deer got lucky this year!

Lifetime licenses?
Question: Why did California stop sending lifetime licenses out? At the time of purchase there were no restrictions implying I had to remain a resident of California and I had no intentions of moving. Circumstances changed though and now I live out of state. Does this negate the lifetime license privileges that I’ve already paid for? (Aron H., Homer, Alaska)

Answer:  No, your lifetime license status has not changed because you moved out of state. According to DFG Sport Fishing/Waterfowl/Upland Game Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, a change in lifetime license issuance procedures was made when we launched the Automated License Data System in 2010.  Lifetime license customers must now verify that their personal information is correct and request their license annually.

There are three ways to claim your license:

1. Pick up your license at any license agent. A list of license agents is available at

2. Order it online at Log in and complete your transaction as though you are making a purchase. There will be no charge for your lifetime license.

3. Call (800) 565-1458 and your license will be mailed to you.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

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