Honey’s back!

Well, I’m pretty sure, as the bill patterns match. But let me back up.

Yesterday ten mallards showed up in Botany Pond: five hens and five drakes. When I called to them, at least three hens (and no drakes) came swimming to my whistle, which was suggestive, as the only mallards who have ever come to my whistle are ones who’ve been trained to do so by feeding. Yesterday was my first whistle of the year, and, sure enough, several hens came to me. I didn’t feed them, as I wasn’t sure they weren’t stragglers, but I tried to photograph the bills of the hens, and did so again today. Sure enough, while the hens’ bill patterns differ markedly from one another, one of them matches Honey’s. (The other hens who came may be offspring returning from last year.)

First let’s look at the scene yesterday, when the pond was still partly frozen over.  Some of the ducks are standing on the ice.

Males and females were swimming around. This was clearly not Honey:


Handsome drakes:

Now THIS looks like Honey. It was taken yesterday.

Let’s have a closeup of the bill. Hmmm. . . .


Here’s a picture of the bill of one of the hens from today (there are only two drakes and two hens now). It is surely the same hen as yesterday. But is it Honey?

Now let’s compare the patterns to those of previous years. This is the same side of Honey’s bill from August 12, 2018

Honey’s bill 2018

And the same side of “Katie’s” bill from August 7, 2019 (Katie was later ascertained to be Honey):


I’m willing to call this a match. The black triangle where the beak joins the head (slightly lighter this year), the the black dots proceeding up toward the nostril, and, especially, the “M” shaped pattern at the middle of the bill (once likened by a reader to “a dog chasing a motorcyle”—all seem to match in all three years.

UPDATE: I found a picture of the left side of the bill from Honey last year and from this year. While the match is not as obvious, as her black coloration isn’t fully developed yet, I think it’s also a match.

Last year:

This year (today).  The black triangle at the bill base is still there, but not as dark. And everything else looks pretty similar, including the inverted “U” in the middle with two black dots in the center.

Another photo from yesterday:

What do you think? I say it’s my beloved hen. That means that this will be the third year that Honey has returned, or a total of four years overall (I first met her in 2017, when she fledged four). She looks to be in great shape, too. I’ll feed her this afternoon if she’s till there. I hope she stays!

Let’s remember how many offspring she had so far:

2017: Four fledged (I came late in the season, so I don’t know how many hatched)
2018: 10 born, two died as ducklings, total of 8 who fledged.
2019: 10 born, one died unaccountably as a subadult (probably flew into a building). Total: 9 fledged.

Offspring fledged in last three years: 21.  What will we have this year?

I just went down and fed all four ducks a healthy lunch of mealworms and adult duck chow. They were hungry! It’s the first feeding of many to come.

In the offing: ducklings (a month or more).


  1. Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Hi, Honey!!

  2. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Lord love a duck! Sure looks like Honey to me. But the bevy of birds so early portends a massive population and continuous air and land traffic jam once the young’uns hatch and even more mature ducks arrive. And the fights! Some mathematician ought to be able to work out a formula for their proliferation. You’ll have to get a fork-lift to transport all the feed you’re gonna need.

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink


      Isn’t this great news, fun to look forward to the duck saga at Botany Pond.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Saga :

        Learn to pronounce
        noun: saga; plural noun: sagas
        a long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic.
        “a figure straight out of a Viking saga”
        folk tale
        traditional story
        fairy story
        a long, involved story, account, or series of incidents.
        “the saga of her engagement”
        chain of events
        catalog of disasters

        early 18th century: from Old Norse, literally ‘narrative’; related to saw3.”

        … sounds about right!

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    How delightful!

  4. Mark R.
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Yay, you must be overjoyed! I’m certainly happy. Yet it’s the other side of Honey’s bill with the black triangle that I think is easier to match.

    • Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I’ve just added another picture–the left side of the bill–I found from today. The triangle is there, but fainter (the markings do differ in intensity among months). I say it’s a match.

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you, I think she’s your girl!

  5. Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Yep — those blotches comply with the Rorschach Duck Identifying method!

  6. Roger
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s got to be Honey because she’s posing for the photos like a pro. Most hens don’t have the supermodel instinct.

  7. Roger
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    What if she’s an evil twin. 100% of TV series have an evil twin episode. That many TV series can’t be wrong.

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      With luck the evil twin Honey showing up will turn out just to have been a dream by the season finale…

    • Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Ha. Is she Odette or Odile?

  8. Teresa Carson
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    What wonderful news! I look forward to an excellent spring and summer of duck tales.

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink


  9. Laurance
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Happy news! Glad you’re back, Honey!

  10. Posted March 5, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    It’s Honey! It’s Honey!

  11. Barry Lyons
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Honey to me!

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    If that ain’t Honey, I’ll kiss your tail feather.

  13. Posted March 5, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Honey, you’re Home!

  14. Nicholas K.
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve really grown to enjoy these duck reports.

  15. BJ
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I find it absolutely adorable how much you love these ducks and your excitement when you see Honey. It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  16. rickflick
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Yep! That’s Honey.

  17. Andrea Kenner
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I’m so happy she’s back! I’m really looking forward to your duck (and duckling) photos this year!

  18. Liz
    Posted March 5, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know for sure. What is the post on which Michael F. put up the post with the other comparison a couple (?) of years ago? It looks like this might be Honey.

    • Liz
      Posted March 5, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      On this duck, it looks like a bit like some of the black has lessened.

      • Posted March 5, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the patterns are lighter earlier in the season (as are her feather colors). But the patterns of dark markings are a very good match. I have no doubt this year that it’s Honey.

        • Posted March 5, 2020 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          This is Honey, I agree, and your babies are all hungry! ‘Twas a long flight back with narry a bite to eat.

          • Posted March 6, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            I look for the S-pattern of black dots on the right side of her bill.

  19. Posted March 6, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I forget – is this earlier than last year?

    • Posted March 7, 2020 at 4:32 am | Permalink

      Yes, I think so, though she did first show up during a late snow shower last year. Everything is early this year, I hear, as we had a fairly warm winter.

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