Houston, we have ducklings

Every year a pair of ducks breeds in Botany Pond, the artificial pond right outside my building.  And in most years the ducklings disappear, either because they wander away or are taken by feral cats.  Two years ago two faculty (I was one) lobbied for a “duck fence” to allow the ducklings to go up on shore and still be protected.  They also built a “duck island” in the middle of the pond. I don’t know if these worked, but last year every duckling fledged, and we were all very happy.

This year we have a new brood, and they’re all alive so far, though it’s early days.  Here they are yesterday, being fed by a student.

The pond also has turtles and goldfish.  Click to enlarge, and note the worried mother standing (or floating) by:


  1. Grania Spingies
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    That’s a lovely photo. I love the reflections in the water. Also, ducklings are cute!

  2. Marta
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, some days I have are so bad they can only be saved by ducks in the waterway, saved by some enlightened person away from me.

  3. Matthew Cobb
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Feral cats? Haven’t you got any foxes that might do the job? Or raptors? Or pike?

    • JBlilie
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I used to see lots of coyotes right in the middle of Seattle; but no foxes. Foxes haven’t adapted as well to cities (at least in western North America).

      • aspidoscelis
        Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        We’ve got foxes in town in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Probably not very many of them, but they’re pretty secretive critters so who knows…

      • rmw
        Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Really? I thought foxes had actually adapted fairly well to an urban/suburban environment? (I live in a medium-sized city and see them fairly often, so your comment made me wonder.)

      • Achrachno
        Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        Gray foxes are regulars in suburban areas in S CA. Several years ago a female raised two kits under my tool shed.

        • Dominic
          Posted May 16, 2012 at 2:59 am | Permalink

          If you have photos send them to Jerry.

          • Achrachno
            Posted May 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            I wish I did.

      • Jeff Sherry
        Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        I’ve seen foxes in downtown Indianapolis and inside the 465 loop. Red fox with kits.

    • Thanny
      Posted May 16, 2012 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Regarding the pike hypothesis:

      • S A GOULD
        Posted May 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        wow. I had no idea…

      • Noadi
        Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        I can’t imagine pike are a species often introduced to manmade ponds though.

  4. JBlilie
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Nice. Lots of new ducklings and goslings around here too.

  5. suwise3
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Good for you for lobbying for the duck pond. I’m sure cats like to look at them, too.

  6. Jacqui
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


  7. bonetired
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Why am I tempted to mention hoisin ….?

  8. DTaylor
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry, for the beautiful picture of this lovely spot and especially for your efforts to enhance and protect it, both for the ducklings and for passing bipeds. What could be more emblematic of the U of C than Botany Pond! I recall it as an undergrad when Green was a dormitory; as a grad student when Strandskov was teaching human genetics; and in 1994 as a place of respite to finally breathe after I passed my orals (an eclipse of the sun that day, too—extra awesome). So, thanks for the photo. And thanks for the memories!

  9. Jackie
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Water-dependent critters are special. Today I made a little pond for the toads that are about, the first of several in a toad corridor around my veg garden. They eat slugs. It’s kind of exciting because the standard anti-slug wisdom is to keep the surrounding lawn cut short and the permaculture method I just invented is just the opposite. To tie this to the topic at hand (sort of), ducks are also excellent slug eaters, but toads are lower maintenance.

  10. Posted May 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    We do love ducklings – and goslings. We don’t love ducks so much. And geese even less. And if every duck raised its 11-15 ducklings to adulthood every year … Hawks have babies too, as I tell people every spring. But I too am happy to see the pond. (Who says we have to be rational?)

  11. Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I recommend _Make Way for Ducklings_(1941), a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.


  12. bacopa
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Don’t know about mallards, but if an adult muscovy spots a cat, that cat is toast. Nothing messes withCairina moschata.

    Actually, larger herons do. I would suspect that herons are more likely duckling killers than cats.

  13. Guy
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Great story.
    I live in Adelaide (South Australia), for several years there was a duck that used to raise its ducklings in the pond in front of the police station in the center of the city. After a few weeks the mother duck would escort the ducklings about 6 or so blocks along the main roads, during working hours and through the traffic, to the river that runs through the city. From about the second year it happened the police kept an eye out and when the ducklings started the “march” for the river they would get a police escort, blocking of the traffic and making sure nothing happened to them. It was a fantastic sight.

  14. Duane
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    I see the ducks, but where are the CROCODUCKS? (sorry)

  15. greyhound1405
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Can anyone tell me, why do ducks always laugh at me?

    • TJR
      Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:11 am | Permalink

      Because you’re a comedy parkie?

  16. John Hudson
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Very similar scenes here on University Park, Nottingham. Such cuties!

  17. TJR
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    A duck island? I hope you claimed for that on expenses.

    And get the moat cleaned while you’re at it.

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