Ssssh. . . Honey is nesting. And we have a new sign!

April 3, 2020 • 12:30 pm

As of today, Honey has laid five eggs: one per day. I can see her nest when I peek behind the cover I’ve put up. She’s still laying, of course, and pops out one egg in the morning, after which she and Dorothy, who’s also nesting—but whose nest is hidden behind a locked door—head to the pond for a huge lunch.

I suspect Honey will have laid all her eggs a week from now, and then she’ll sit tight for four weeks. Then. . . .DUCKLINGS! Dorothy is roughly synchronized, I think.

But more on nesting tomorrow. Here’s a sneak peek.

I lift this cover only when she’s on the pond, so I don’t disturb her laying.

And. . . we have a new duck sign! Look at this beauty! Thanks to the people in Facilities Services, especially Katie Peck, Associate Director of Campus Environment.

27 thoughts on “Ssssh. . . Honey is nesting. And we have a new sign!

  1. Question. If Honey lays an egg a day for ten days, the newest egg will be ten days younger than the oldest. How can the ducklings hatch at the same time?

    1. Ah, you haven’t been reading my duck posts. The mallards lay one egg per day, but don’t sit hard on them until all are laid. They leave the nest for the rest of the day (and night, I think) so there’s no development because there’s no body heat.

      When the last egg is laid (don’t ask me how they know), the hen sits down tight on the whole batch and starts warming them, so they begin developing all at once, and simultaneously. She turns each egg from time to time to expose it to uniformly to her body heat. For about 28 days she doesn’t budge from the nest except very briefly to head to the pond for a drink (and, if I happen to be there) a good snack.

      They all hatch within 24 hours.

      Isn’t that amazing?

      1. Amazing indeed. I have been reading your duck posts but I had no idea that the eggs don’t start developing until the laying has ended and the incubating begins.

  2. It still amazes (and scares) me that they nest so high up.

    When the last egg is laid (don’t ask me how they know)

    They probably feel more empty inside. Meant both as a flip and a serious answer.

  3. …and then the ducklings get big enough to leave the nest…which is up HIGH.

    I have a memory of ducklings dropping from a great height and somehow not getting hurt. And I remember seeing a video of a kind man who thought a group of ducklings leaving a high nest would be hurt, so he went to a great length to get up there and bring the ducklings down safely.

    And then I learned that it wasn’t necessary. Will PCC Emeritus tell us about this?

    1. Yes, mallards aren’t as adapted as, say, wood ducks to do this, as they normally nest on the ground. Thus I worry that the drop will be hard on these ducklings. That’s why I’ll make sure that soft cushion is put underneath both nests before the Big Leap.

      Ledge nesting is an innovation in mallards, probably culturally conditioned (and learned) but if they keep doing it in cities, natural selection will start molding behaviors that increase duckling survival.

      1. Here is a handout from Washington DC about what to do if you find ducks nesting on your roof. Don’t know how accurate this is, but it says “The mother ducks are programmed to look only at the nest site and the proximity of the water source. They do not think about how they will get their ducklings there.”
        So, your ledges offer proximity, flat surface, and hidden from view (something I’ve read in other sources that they select for); maybe the height is neither adaptive nor maladaptive, but rather just coincidence (I guess not coincidence because sight line is related to it, but you know what I mean).

      2. I imagine that survival of a long fall is helped by a relatively low terminal velocity, due to low overall density/high fluffiness. They are as likely to survive a twenty storey fall as a two storey fall.

  4. This is all wonderful news!

    You could take advantage of one of Honey’s brief absences to install one of those hotel door peepholes in your barrier. And over the winter you could replace it with a webcam to gear up for a live video feed next spring!

  5. Nice sign. We also have ducks nesting in town in strange location. In our case this was on top of a 2 story apartment. On a walk, we happened to see the family with 10 babies headed for the Red river (about 1400 m away). The mother duck knew just where to go, but it wasn’t a good route small ducklings. We helped them along since they had to cross several busy roads and go through a trailer park to get to the river. After being trapped behind several fences they all made it to the river safely. Talking to a person outside the apartment the ducklings had jumped off the roof without injury.

  6. I really like the sign at the pond and the sign on the window. I like signs that respect the reader enough to tell them not only what to do, but why. Otherwise some people like myself might reach erroneous conclusions as to “why,” and not follow the rules.

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