Thursday: Duck report

The hatching of ducklings should commence on May 3 or 4, and these may be the last photos and videos of the adults you see before they are babysitting. Both Dorothy and Honey are sitting tight on their nests, with both coming to the pond every three to four days for between 30 minutes and an hour to eat, preen, and bathe. (The eggs can be left for a short while.) Now that we have the DuckCam, I can easily see if there’s a hen in the pond, whereupon I run down and feed her. Incubating eggs is hard work!

I believe there’s another hen in the area as well, as a new female flew into the pond three days ago, lay flat on the water in a copulatory pose, and immediately mated with Wingman. She then preened and began flying to various window ledges on Erman Hall, where Dorothy is nesting, quacking loudly all the time. Two days ago I saw her on a ledge on the Anatomy Building, also quacking hard. I suspect she’s a late arrival and beginning to nest. So, we may once again have three broods of ducklings on Botany Pond! You’ll be able to watch them on the “On Botany Pond” DuckCam.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos and videos of the last days of the ducks as non-parents.

Here’s Honey having a quick feed.

Wingman and Dorothy:

Wingman and Dorothy, with the drake napping a bit and Dorothy preening:

All three were in the pond together while the hens were nesting; the ladies took a break together. This is the first time I’ve seen the hens leave their nests at the same time. I fed them all, and here they are grooming postprandially:

Dorothy preening: a series.

Look at my speculua!

All clean!  In some light the speculum appears violet (as above), while in others it’s a royal blue (below):

And a video of the preening bout above:

Wingie preening:

Finally, Honey preening. Ducks are immaculate animals and keep themselves clean and well oiled.

This morning (Thursday), I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the pond on the pondcam. I ran downstairs to photograph it, and got one shot in low light (ergo out of focus) before it flew off. These herons are easily spooked, but they eat ducklings, so I’m glad they don’t stay around:



  1. Posted April 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Great capture. I can’t even take pics. that well 🙂

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous and thrilling pic of the heron!

    This record of the Botany Pond experience is invaluable.

  3. George
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    In other University of Chicago related animal procreation news, Fermilab (UofC manages the Lab) had its first baby bison birth of the spring on Tuesday.

    Jerry – how would you like to have to feed a pregnant bison? FNAL is closed to non-essential employees. Do you know your equivalent out in Batavia looking after the bison?

  4. JezGrove
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Weirdly, the version of the DuckCam that was embedded in the post in which PCC(E) announced that it had gone live is zoomable so you can see more detail, but the YouTube version isn’t.

    • Dominic
      Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      It zooms on this iphone…
      There are no buffalo in Buffalo to buffalo Buffalo buffalo, as they are bison!!! and we all know the difference – you can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.

  5. Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I occasionally drop in to see what is going down. I always see at least one human strolling around the famous pond.

  6. Dominic
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I can tell a hawk from a harnser
    In Regents Park herons allow you very close especially from behind a fence…

  7. Mark R.
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Another enjoyable duck report. Thanks.

  8. Terry L Pedersen
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful picture of the Heron, nice background.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Since we already have the little ducks here I am seeing behavior that is different. Maybe some duck experts can explain, why would one of the drakes go after the female when she already has a bunch of young ones. There may be another male attempting to chase him away but it does little good.

  10. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I just discovered that @OnBotanyPond now exists on Twitter. Are you responsible? (they have your blue and green heron pictures, with attribution).

  11. Susan Davies
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see that you will be riding shotgun on the pond and keeping the herons at bay!

    • Posted April 30, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      I am worried by that heron. It seems to know that ducklings will soon arrive.

  12. Heather Hastie
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful series of photos and videos! My favourite is Dorothy displaying her specula.

    Even though it’s a little out of focus, I love the heron pic too. The colours in the background against the heron are great. If the light had allowed a better pic, it would have been truly spectacular.

  13. Posted April 30, 2020 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    These are marvellous photos and video! Thanks!

  14. Posted May 1, 2020 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Is there some kind of hormonal or other mechanism that causes the eggs to all hatch reasonably simultaneously? I’m thinking of PCC’s comment that the ducks leave the nest within an hour or so and head for their first feeding. How do the eggs coordinate their hatching? Or do they?

    • SDF
      Posted May 1, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      PCC explained in an earlier update that while the eggs are laid approximately 1 per day the hen doesn’t start incubating them until she laid all of her eggs so that leads to them hatching at relatively the same time.

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