duckbill or platypus
   It is easy to see how this ani­mal got its name. Its bill is much like a duck's bill. It has webbed feet, too, and it lays eggs. But the duckbill is not a relative of the ducks. It is not even a bird. It has four legs instead of two and fur instead of feathers. It belongs to the big group of animals called mammals.   The duckbill is found wild only in Aus­tralia and on the nearby island of Tasmania. For many years it was not even found in zoos in other countries. It is a shy animal not easy to care for in captivity.
   Some of the early settlers in Australia sent a few duckbill skins to some scientists in England. The scientists thought these settlers were playing a joke on them and had fastened the bills of some bird to the skins of animals!
   In Australia there were once many more duckbills than there are now. Many were killed for their beautiful fur. Now there are laws to protect them.
   Duckbills spend most of their time in the water. They can swim and dive very well. They eat worms, crayfish, and other small animals. In the banks of the streams where they live they dig long tunnels for their nests. A mother duckbill usually lays only one or two eggs at a time.
   Although a duckbill is nearly two feet long, counting its tail, its eggs are tiny— less than an inch long. The baby duckbills of course are very tiny when they hatch. But they grow fast. They get milk from their mother just as all other baby mam­mals do. When they are very small, the mother holds them in place with her tail while they are getting their dinner.
   The duckbill has another name. It is platypus. Sometimes the animal is called the duckbill platypus.