Sunday: Duck report

June 2, 2019 • 1:30 pm

If you don’t like ducks or are tired of them, skip this post. But I thought it would be nice for at least some people to share my fun as I watch the ducklings grow up.

There are still ten ducklings, and they are eating me out of house and home. I have just ordered 100 pounds of Waterfowl Starter Chow, which is far more than I’ve ever had on hand. That’s on top of 3 2.5-pound bags of mealworms at $26/pop. These are gonna be expensive ducks to fledge, but they’re worth every penny.

So, here are some pictures and videos:

Their feathers are growing, and now their little wing stubs are feathered. It doesn’t look quite so pathetic when they flap them, which you can see in one of the videos below. Here they are foraging among the floating gingko fruits floating in the pond from last year.

A brash young one getting its spiky punk look. Little do they know that some day they’ll spread those wings and take to the air. They have no idea!

You can see how they come to me when I call:

Katie cocks her head as she watches her brood:

Vigorous postprandial bathing, sharing the tub with turtles:


Breakfast a few days ago:

The indomitable Katie Peck. What a good mom she is! Note that her bill is marked very differently from Honey’s.


Ducks have an oil gland at the base of their tail; they slick up their beak with the oil and spread it over their feathers, sometimes dipping their bill in the water in the interim, as Katie does here. I’m not sure why, but the water may help spread the oil somehow. This, at any rate, is why ducks are waterproof.

The turtles are still around, of course:

And “Ducklings” by Claude Monet:

Finally, Nilou found a 1932 cartoon map of the University of Chicago, which has many interesting features (enlarge it). I’ve circled the spot of interest, but have a look around. Hull Court, the region around Botany Pond, hasn’t changed at all since then, though the Pond has been landscaped and given a cement rim and other good features:

And look! There’s a duck there—in 1933. Continuous habitation by waterfowl for at least 86 years! (The Pond was created in 1902, but more about its history at a later date.)


26 thoughts on “Sunday: Duck report

  1. Quote: “You can see how they come to me when I call:”

    What are you going to do next year when all (well, statistically, half) of them come back to raise their families?

    Is the “Waterfowl Starter Chow” company publicly traded? Where do I get shares? They are going to make huge profits this year and, if all goes well, next year. Lets hear it for exponential growth.

    1. Mazuri is a subsidiary of Purina Mills, Inc.

      And, Jerry, I read EVERY duck post, and EVERY cat post.

      I skip over a few postings, but I always read the animal posts.


  2. You need to suggest they enlarge the pond. Say it is a zoning concern. Only so many ducks per gallon or something.

  3. They’re reaching that gangley stage.
    The old cartoon of the campus and Botany Pond suggests there may have been other faculty helping nature along, years ago. Perhaps today’s ducks are directly related to some that were fed back on the 30s. It’s nice to imagine anyway.

  4. I love seeing the fleet arrive at the whistle. It must be really cool to be there.

    I, too, would buy shares in the “Waterfowl Starter Chow” co. But wouldn’t we be brought up on insider trading and end up like Martha Stewart?

  5. I never tire of seeing or hearing about your brood. I remain envious of your role as grand-parental platyrhynchos and of the turtles on the side.

    And might I add, what a wonderful map! How nice to have an historical cartographical rendition of your little slice of heaven. Zoology, Botany, Anatomy, and a coffee shop too…my kind of heaven, anyway. How much has changed since 1933?

  6. Huge [9603 x 6454 px] version of Elizabeth Moore (“Betty”) Fisher’s (PhB’22) 1932 cartoon campus map download link is bottom of THIS PAGE

    What is the creature on the roof of Mandel Hall [the concert hall]?

    I was amused to discover “The Campus Vamp” in the west & east map borders [not the jazz term from context] – from the clothes I suppose it’s campus vamp, early & contemporary 1933 versions. Bonus squirrel:

  7. Pavlov would dig the whistling, man.

    Where’s your office on the map? And the ledge where Katie had her nest?

  8. Keep the ducks acomin”. I thank you so much for sharing them with us. It seems that this batch of ducklings is growing faster than past broods (although I haven’t gone back to verify). If these are related to ones you’ve lovingly fed in the past, the better nutrition seems to have provided an advantage to this current crop of ducks. (I can’t look at them without thinking of the 50s male hair styles of DAs and flat tops). And, scrolling through the photos, when I arrived at the Monet painting, first I thought “Oh, oh! A blurry photo!” How I love Monet!

    The University of Chicago map is a wonderful bit of history.

  9. when I arrived at the Monet painting, first I thought “Oh, oh! A blurry photo!” How I love Monet!

    I thought the same thing, but upon investigation, I’m pretty sure this is PCC(e)’s artistic side coming through. A quick Google search for a painting entitled “Ducklings” by Monet came up empty, and EXIF data items on the image match those of another image that PCC(e) unquestionably took the same day (last Thursday).


  10. At least he’s the Brits’ problem for the next three days. Here’s wishing the Trump baby balloon fair skies.

    Gentlemen, we’re counting on you to defend Meghan Markle’s honor.

    1. Do you think the Brits would lock him up in the Tower of London for us? I would be willing to take Nigel “the sniveling twit” Farage in return.

  11. Keep the duck posts coming! Even when I have a lot of work (right now, for example), I still read all the duck posts. I need to know how they’re doing! You and your team are obviously raising a fine brood, but I’m afraid they’re getting too big too fast and they will be gone before we know it.

  12. I have not kept up on the duck front – or WEIT – lately. You know – life, the universe and all that crap. I do plan on seeing the Adventures of Augie March at the Court Theatre so I may visit the brood.

    But there is bad news on the duck front. I do not know if Jerry has announced this yet, but Anna is leaving. She does insist that the ducks will be in good hands.

    1. Yes, I’ve known this for some time. Anna is moving on to greener pastures, and it’s sad that she won’t see the ducklings fledge. But we have two replacements lined up, so the ducks won’t suffer. And of course I’ll be sending Anna updates.

  13. I too love the duck posts. And it’s really special to see the coming to Jerry’s whistle.

    Isn’t it sad that there are people out there so pathetic that Jerry has to apologize for putting up duck posts? FFS! I understand that if he’s writing about something controversial, he might expect negative comments. But WTF is wrong with some people that they criticize him for writing about ducks? SMH VERY HARD!!!

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