Chicago pix

June 5, 2014 • 4:02 am

Every year, at least one brood of mallards hatches in the pond outside my building. And nearly every year, the ducklings disappear by slow attrition: male mallards kill them, feral cats nom them, and Ceiling Cat knows what else happens to them. Here’s the mom and her latest brood, photographed by Giselle Garcia. I’m told that several ducklings have already disappeared.

It breaks my heart, even though it’s nature, but about two years ago they all fledged. I’m hoping at least a few will survive this year. Make way for ducklings!


And a photo of the city last evening, with the clouds and rain closing in:




14 thoughts on “Chicago pix

  1. My mom used be a lab manager for the molecular pharmacology labs at Stanford which was in one of the buildings of the hospital. Every year the huge fountain outside the entrance would be home to ducklings as well and the employees in the area would take turns to feed the ducklings and they even put up a duckling crossing sign to warn drivers of the little ones.

    Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2014 11:02:38 +0000 To:

  2. I never knew male ducks kill ducklings. For what purpose? To get mom to lay more eggs with him I would assume.

    1. I suppose it must be something like that, but I am not sure how. For mammals, male infanticide of unweaned young is pretty common in order to get the female back to estrus for mating, but for birds? I am not sure.

      1. It seems simple to me. The resources in any environment are limited so it’s to any individuals advantage to reduce the number of its competitors, the better to leave some food for itself or its actual or potential offspring. Also, the little duckling that you eschew killing may well grow up to kill your offspring. Of course it won’t risk injury by picking on someone its own size but if a helpless little one presents an opportunity…..
        It’s more complicated for social animals since we rely on members of our own group but if we find someone from outside the tribe then that old rage kicks in.
        Now I’m going to get hammered for suggesting that human violence is genetic and not cultural.

        1. You would not get into trouble from me. I think there are strong genetic components of human behaviors, and I accept that male vs female behavior differences also receive some genetic contributions [looks over his shoulder].
          Your point about infanticide seems a reasonable one.
          Another possible idea is still more like what is seen in male mammals. In birds, it is well known that if one removes eggs from the nest the female will often respond by gearing up her ovaries to put out more eggs. If this ovulation response extends to when she has young chicks, then removal of young chicks would get her to ovulate again. Given the time that had past since mating she will be more receptive to mating with another male.
          I suppose I could just look this up, rather than guess, but I am too busy for that right now.

  3. In Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Lake and other waters ducklings are a favorite food of snapping turtles. We had 7 or 8 Wood Ducklings and are down to 3 who seem to have grown sufficiently to either be too big to eat or they are now fast enough to get out of danger.

    1. Could be they are just lucky. You can’t get too big for a snapper since they have sharp enough lips to bite a chunk out of whatever comes in range.

  4. I love the little duckies! I hate thinking about them as lunch for other critters. But reality is that just about every creature living in the wild will die in some horrible way, and being eaten is quicker than starvation. This is one of the main reasons I set aside any happy fiction of gob working through evolution. The concept of a loving gob is simply not compatible with evolution (or reality). That being said, I hope these cuties make it.

  5. clouds and rain closing in

    Sure, rub it in. We’ve had daytime highs at or near 110°f for at least a week, now, with forecasts calling for more of the same as far as forecasts get projected…and you’re getting rain….


    1. RUB IT IN?????

      Have you conveniently forgotten about all the polar vortex posts of just a few months ago? We will not get up to 110F (43C) but will have high temps of 72-80F (22-27C) for the next 10 days. The dog days of late July and early August are coming with temps of 95-100F (35-38C).

      I assume you are in Arizona with those temps. That is what you get for living in the desert. But just repeat the standard mantra – “But it is a dry heat!”

      Many Chicagoans seem to prefer the weather in Phoenix (aka West Chicago) to what they left behind.

  6. When my kids were pretty young, a duck nest was built outside our house. One night there was a terrible racket and we went out. It appeared that a raccoon had killed the mom duck. We took all eleven eggs in and bought a chick incubator. All eleven hatched, nearly all at the same time so we woke the kids up at 4am to come down and watch. We raised them and eventually released them at a nearby pond. I wonder if we disturbed their evolution. We certainly had fun doing it.

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