Sleeping duckling

June 10, 2019 • 2:45 pm

I have the pleasure of reporting that we still have 18 ducklings in the pond, and the two broods are pretty much leaving each other alone. The trick is to feed them when they’re widely separated, so that Katie doesn’t see the new mom—I think she’ll be named Anna—being fed. (There’s only conflict at feeding time.) And so I spend mealtimes running between two broods at each side of the pond, trying to give the older brood a sufficient amount of food that they don’t gobble it up immediately and start looking around for more.

So far, so good. The new ducklings are still tiny, and spend most of their time in the water because they’re too small to leap up over the pond’s edge. (I did find them all on the bank this morning.) And both broods come to me when I whistle, which is a bit dangerous since they might encounter each other.

I have lots of duckling pictures, but here’s a teaser. I found that the little ones, since they spend so much time in the water, sleep while floating, though I don’t know whether, like the adults, they sleep with one eye open. Here’s a tired duckling having a snooze this morning, eyes closed and bill tucked into its side. Anna, of course, was watching over them all.

Click to enlarge for maximum cuteness; more pictures (and video) tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “Sleeping duckling

  1. HALF-BRAINED DUCKS IN A ROW By Dana Mackenzie, 1999

    “…the ability to let half their brain sleep while keeping the other half awake. In tomorrow’s issue of Nature, researchers report that ducks manage this trick to stay alert for predators while still getting some shut-eye. The findings suggest that different parts of the vertebrate brain can sleep independently of each other.

    Although researchers have known about this so-called “unihemispheric” sleep for 3 decades, they could only guess why this peculiar kind of shut-eye evolved in birds. But when filming mallards for a different experiment, sleep researcher Niels Rattenborg of Indiana State University noticed a remarkable pattern. “When I put a camera on them, I noticed that ducks that were next to each other slept with the outside eye open,” Rattenborg says. “From there, the experiment designed itself.”

    Rattenborg, along with animal behavior experts Steven Lima and Charles Amlaner, placed four ducks in a row of clear tanks and waited for them to doze off. The ducks in the middle tanks would almost always sleep with both eyes shut, while those on the ends kept one eye open for about a third of the night. When the researchers rotated the ducks to different spots, the bird that had slept with its left eye open on one end, for example, would sleep with both eyes closed in an interior tank and with the right eye open in the tank at the other end. The side of the brain that controlled the open eye had the activity levels of an awake bird, while the other side had brain waves characteristic of sleep, according to electroencephalogram recordings. Even with just one eye open, the birds reacted to a slide of a predator in less than a fifth of a second.”


  2. Anna! That’s perfect! I wonder if Dr. Anna will adopt some ducks where she’s headed.

    You’re doing an incredible job caring for your broods, Jerry. It’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?

    1. I’m told Anna will be living near a lake, but I’m not sure if there are ducks there nor whether she will resume her role as duck farmer in Bloomington. Stay tuned.

      The full name of the new hen is Anna Mallard, after Anna Mueller.

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