Wednesday: Duck report

June 20, 2018 • 2:30 pm

The weather has cooled down (right now it’s a comfortable 70°F (21°C) in Chicago, and the ducks are happy and healthy. Now they’re up to four feedings a day—but only if, after the third, they still act hungry. When I walked by the pond on my way to the library this morning, they were all dabbling, including Honey, so I’m sure they’re getting food between meals. Whether a pond this small can support nine birds, however, is another question. That’s one reason why I supplement the pickings from the pond with good healthy duck food.

These photos are from yesterday, and the scene below is what I see when I go out early in the morning and emit one short whistle. Like a V-shaped formation of geese, the family heads rapidly for me, this time Honey in the lead this time (she’s usually in the rear to keep an eye on the brood). One duckling was a little slow to the gate, and I made sure he/she wasn’t weak or anything.

I can’t tell whether they’re male or female, and maybe won’t be able to even before they fledge (last year I suspected there were three drakes and a hen). This, and the inability to tell them apart, keeps me from giving them names.

Later on in the day (it was overcast) they were foraging on the grass, and I stood back and tossed them corn. They all ate but, as usual, Honey eschewed a normal ration to watch over her brood. She’s such a good mom!

The ducklings are almost palpably bigger from day to day, and they’re turning brown (and growing big-duck feathers). They have cute little feathered tails now.

After the third meal (they’re like hobbits, eating all the time), they had their inevitable postprandial bath with mom looking on. I’m not sure why feedings incite this behavior, although they may get small duck pellets on them when I toss them food.

My girl: Honey. Mallards, I’m told, can live 2-13 years in the wild, with a mean of 4 years. I’m hoping Honey was young when she showed up last year, so that I’ll have some more good years with her and her kids—if she returns.

When the sun came out, all the turtles took advantage of it, stretching out their limbs and necks to absorb as much sun as possible (remember, they’re poikilotherms—”cold blooded” animals—and can regulate their body temperature only by where they go).

28 thoughts on “Wednesday: Duck report

  1. My former town had a charming aviary I used to visit with some frequency. In addition to the birds, there were several resident turtles. I always thought to myself that if I had to swap places with a creature, it would be one of those turtles in the aviary. Lovely pics!

  2. I would have thought wild mallards had a longer lifespan than 4 mean years. Living in the wild is mean.

    Always look forward to the (mostly) daily DR.

  3. I have named the babies in my mind: Darryl, Darryl, Darryl, Darryl, Darryl, Darryl, Darryl, and their other brother, Darryl.

      1. Can you give me an example of an ectotherm that is not a poikilotherm?

        No joke, I find this confusing.


        1. Poikilothermy and ectothermy actually mean different things. Poikilotherms have body temperatures that fluctuate through a wide range (as opposed to more stable homeotherms). Ectotherms are animals that obtain most of their heat from the external environment rather than their food intake (as opposed to endotherms such as mammals). A large crocodile could be ectothermic but not poikilothermic due to large size and burrowing in cold weather.

  4. The ducklings are putting away so much food because they’re in a growth phase now. When my son was a little boy, I always knew when he was getting ready for a growth spurt: he would eat everything in sight. Same with the ducklings.

  5. I am not a biologist. But I do know about animals and food. If Honey survives she will return to Botany pond every year. And if she raises eight ducklings per year, her immortal genes will be well represented in the mallard gene pool.

Leave a Reply