Friday duck report: pictures and videos

After the stress of the last couple of days, culminating with me immersing myself in the pond and netting 7 ducklings whose fate otherwise was to die at the wings of Honey and her brood (they’re all fine now and being raised at a wildlife rescue facility), I deserve a break. And indeed, the last two days the pond has been calm, with little inter-duck fighting. I can feed them, watch their postprandial play, zooming, and diving, and simply chill nearby while the mallards nap, like this:

After one month, they’re teenagers (they fly at two months), with the adult plumage coming in, starting at the neck and the tail and meeting at the middle. Their stubby wings are already feathered.

. . . and they act like adult ducks, having learned from Honey to groom, dabble, and preen. Here’s a video of the pack doing it on the beach.

They’re much more independent, going all over the land around the pond, though not all of them are yet big enough to jump over the cement rim. (They have other ways of getting up.) Here’s honey watching her theropods, which they always remind me of. Look at that one standing up; it even looks like a penguin.

This duckling, which I photographed about a week ago, was sleeping on the cement ring, and I noticed a small claw on what seems to be its wing. It’s circled in the next photo.

It could be, as I discussed in an earlier post, an atavistic claw on one of the digits that compose the framework of the bird’s wing. (It could also be on the foot, but I doubt it.) See the earlier post for an enlargement.

Same baby, but scratching itself with a foot. Here it doesn’t look like it’s on the foot.

Here’s a video taken by Jean Greenberg, showing some vigorous diving and zooming. I’d sure like to see an underwater shot of their legs as they zoom: those feet must be paddling as fast as a fan blade!

Although it’s getting warmer, they’re still social birds and prefer to be bunched up at all times. Honey, of course, stands guard, sleeping with one eye closed. The turtles provide protective armor nearby.

I love it when they stick their little oversized feet out to cool themselves.

A pile of sleeping ducklings.

Another video by Jean Greenberg showing the Contagious Zoomies, started by one enterprising duckling. It’s play but also practice for the flying takeoff as well as predator avoidance.

Also from Jean: this is the one remaining duckling that I nabbed and, with the help of reader Karen, got to the rehabber.  It was joined to its six brothers and sisters rescued the previous evening and has been taken to Willowbrook for rearing and rehab. The aim of the rehabbers is to release them to live out their lives as wild mallards.

I can’t get enough photos of the Duckling Pile:

Dorothy still hangs around the pond, but I’m not sure whether she’s nesting or not. If I were a believer, I’d pray that she’s not raising another brood to replace the one purloined by Honey. Here she is on one of her pond visits hanging with Wingman, who still courts both Honey and Dorothy. Note that Wingman is vocalizing.

Finally, an artsy shot of a leafy tree reflected in the pond.

15 Comments

  1. jezgrove
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Great photos and videos. The evidence for that atavistic claw is looking stronger.

  2. neilmdunn
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update. I did not know the directions the feathers grow or that the feet extended when resting = to cool off.

  3. Linda Calhoun
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry, for all the pix and videos.

    Any word on Sam?

    L

    • Posted June 5, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Only that he was in good shape and taken to Willowbrook. They don’t tag their ducklings on arrival, so I’ll never know what happened to the little one. Oh well . . .

  4. Posted June 5, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Our duck farmer has survived to give us a vivid tale of the duck ensemble. Thank you, Sir.

  5. Raskos
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    How many turtles live in that pond? I’ve tried counting the baskers on the DuckCam, and believe that there are nine, but can’t be sure.
    Does anyone feed them? That pond doesn’t look as though it would support enough of an aquatic community to support such a number of adult turtles.

    • Posted June 5, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      There are surely more than nine. They eat the leftover duck food, algae, and other stuff. Certainly there’s enough goodies in the pond to support them, and some of them are BIG.

      • Raskos
        Posted June 5, 2020 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.
        There are no native turtles where I live, so it’s nice to be able to see these guys.

  6. Posted June 5, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Did you ever find your glasses, or are they gone for good?

    • Posted June 5, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Gond for good, I suspect. I’d go back in and root around in the bottom (which is DEEP MUD), but it would disturb the ducks.

  7. rickflick
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I can see zoomies as a precursor to flight. Also, when the raise up high on their toes and flap. One day they’ll put the two together and bid Botany Pond farewell.

  8. Posted June 5, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if ‘Dino-duck’ can be recognized in later pictures.

  9. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    This has been (and continues to be) a fascinating narrative. Certainly for me it has revealed much about duck behaviour that I had never appreciated.

    May I ask whether it adds to our understanding of ducks and how they live? You have devoted a lot of time, effort and personal commitment to these birds over the past couple of years. Could it be worth your while to write it up more formally?

    Never mind; keep it coming here anyway!

    • Posted June 5, 2020 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Greg and I are planning to write a short paper on our observation of these urbanized mallards for a bird journal. We have lots of information that Greg has written down as the story developed.

      • Barbara Radcliffe
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 5:17 am | Permalink

        That’s great news. Please let us know when it is published (or even when it is submitted).


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