Proprietor’s wildlife: Thursday ducks

It’s time for a report on how Honey and her brood are getting along. The answer is, to Coyne a phrase, “swimmingly.” All 17 are healthy and growing, with some nearly the size of their mother. (There’s still no sign of any brood from Dorothy, and I hope she’s not cooking up another one.)

Here are some pictures and videos from the last week.

As I wrote recently, the ducks have entered their “scruffy teenager phase”, with punk haircuts and a theropod look. But their feathers are growing in now, with only a small patch of baby down on their rumps.

Look at this scruffy bugger!  The feathers have come in on most of the body except for a space between the tail and the wings, where some baby down remains:

They’re getting what looks like a dark greenish color on their heads, but these aren’t future males, as all the ducklings have that look:

Preening:

They’re learning to dabble: getting food from the pond bottom, often by straining mud through their bills, which have serrations that act as a sieve:

A video of dabbling en masse:

They have begun resting all over the edge of the pond, and most ducks are big enough to jump out onto the cement edging. Honey is in the rear as usual, overseeing her brood (remember, half of these aren’t her babies):

Resting, feet back:

Sleeping, feet forward:

The duckling above grooming him/herself:

The other afternoon, the channel had a male and female pair on either side, facing each other. (Neither included Honey.) The pairs chattered at each other for a long time, which you can hear in this video. I’m not sure what this “duck talk” means, but, since it’s accompanied by head-bobbing, it’s almost surely territorial. And, sure enough, one pair went after the other after I took this video. They make funny sounds!

All the ducks can now use the ramps, though the fatter ones have a bit of trouble and sometimes tumble off at the top. Here’s a short clip of two of them coming aboard:

 

The only duckling with a name is “Tiny,” the runt of the litter. He’s about 2/3 the size of the other ducks, and a bit slow, as he doesn’t seem to recognize food when it’s thrown. The other ducks start eating immediately, but Tiny takes about 15 seconds to recognize that he’s being fed. But I make sure to give Tiny extra noms to make up for his small size. He’s actually doing very well—as hearty as the other ducks.  Here’s Tiny (right) next to a larger duck:

When it’s hot, ducks engage in “gular fluttering”: moving their throat muscles up and down to promote heat loss, similar to dogs panting. Here’s a video of Tiny doing some fluttering. It’s perfectly normal behavior!

Honey:

An unknown female (we have several who visit the pond):

Some postprandial zooming and diving; video by Jean Greenberg:

Ducks on parade. They look very determined when they march on the sidewalk. Make way for ducklings! Honey leads the way.

And of course we can’t forget the handsome Wingman, who’s still around and acting very calm. Here he’s grooming himself on the North Duck Ring. He doesn’t seem to go after Honey any more, so all is peaceful—for the time being!

6 Comments

  1. jezgrove
    Posted June 11, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    “So all is peaceful for the time being”: let’s hope it stays that way!

  2. Posted June 11, 2020 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Ducklings no more! Duckteens, perhaps?

  3. Steve Gerrard
    Posted June 11, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    the ducks look huge, even Tiny is getting big. It is getting to be time for flight practice, I think. That should be fun to watch.

  4. chris moffatt
    Posted June 11, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    If you are now having a number of visiting females can you possibly get the ornithology dept to band Honey for easier ID next year?

  5. Glenda Palmer
    Posted June 11, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Appreciated the update with all the great photos, videos and notes. You and the helpers take such good care of Honey and her band of 17. I still feel sad for Dorothy though.

  6. Posted June 11, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s relief to know they’re too big a mouthful for the herons. I love them at all their stages.


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