Well, Dorothy, who clearly wanted to have her own family after her entire brood was purloined by Honey, produced seven ducklings yesterday. This second batch leaped down from the third-floor window in Erman hall next to the pond, coming down while I was feeding Honey’s brood across the pond. The time was about 8:45 a.m. As always, the mom flew first to the ground and quacked, and the peeping babies jumped down one by one. One even hit the ground and bounced into the water, apparently without harm. I was surprised by her late breeding, but of course this is her second effort. Our final brood last year appeared at about the same time.
I am not going to remove the babies from Dorothy because, sitting by the pond most of the day yesterday, I saw that there were almost no negative interactions between Honey’s nearly-grown brood and Dorothy’s new one. And I feel that Dorothy needs a chance to raise her young on the pond so long as they’re not endangered. So far, so good, though it’s only 24 hours since they jumped.
Here’s Dorothy with her seven babies:
Another view. She’s a proud mom. She sat on eggs for a total of two months, one month per brood, and I want her to keep this one (there’s no chance Honey will steal them; they’re way too young.
One of Dorothy’s babies, just a day old at most. The protrusion at the end of its beak is the egg tooth, a feature that the duckling uses to peck its way out of the egg. I don’t think it’s homologous to the reptilian tooth, as it’s made of calcium carbonate. It’s also shed about a day after the duck hatches. Here’s the Wikipedia description:
A mother bird delivers her young encased in an eggshell; an external protective covering consisting of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The shell protects the chick until it is ready to survive in the outside world. The chick breaks open the shell when it is strong enough and ready. Since the beak and the claws of the bird are not fully developed and cannot penetrate the eggshell, the “egg tooth” is the unusual structure that helps the bird break through the shell. It is only found in emerging chicks and lost soon after hatching, after it is used to penetrate the hard shell that once protected the embryo..
Seeing if something is nomm-able. The babies don’t really eat for 24 hours after jumping, but I’m trying to feed Dorothy and give her babies a bit of duckling chow. To do this, they have to be well apart from Honey’s brood, just like last year when we were feeding three broods at once. If one gets fed and not the others till later, the others tend to come over for some chow. I must keep Dorothy’s brood separated from Honey’s. Dorothy is good at driving off Honey’s ducklings, but Honey is bit more persistent though, unaccountably, she doesn’t seem to want to attack Dorothy or her brood.
But was it really Dorothy who re-nested? Yes it was. Here’s her bill pattern 6 weeks ago with the distinct dot under her nostril (ergo her name).
Her bill had darkened up a bit since then (as has Honey’s), but it still shows the dot pattern. Dorothy looks a bit peaked, probably from not eating much while incubating. Also, there seems to be a dent in her head, which could be feathers removed when she was being pecked during her previous breeding attempt.
Contrast the photo below with the one above. Dorothy has a huge tuft of feathers pulled out of her head (probably from “forced copulation”, i.e., duck rape) and has lost a ton of weight. Hens often lose 30-35% of their body weight during the one-month incubation period, and Dorothy incubated twice. I’m trying to feed her up with good duck chow and mealworms now.
When the babies jumped, I ran upstairs to put on my pond clothes in case I had to go into the drink to rescue the babies were they attacked. While I was dressing, my colleague Jean Greenberg took three videos of the babies right after they jumped but before they started swimming. In this first one, Dorothy has lured two babies into the water, but five of them, peeping, remain on the bank.
Here there’s one straggler left on the bank, frantically making the “don’t forget me!” peep. Dorothy finds it and quacks until it runs to the water.
And the brood, all together and staying close to mom, gets ready to start exploring their world.
A short while later, the brood went into the channel and began exploring. Dorothy has been eating, and the duckling pecking at food and other detritus, so all is well.
What worries me is not so much the interactions between the broods, but the fact that people keep disturbing the brood when Dorothy is sitting on them. If you’re reading this, please give all lone hens, especially on the bank of the pond, a wide berth!
More reports will follow. In the meantime, I ask your indulgence because the lives of this brood is a higher priority than posting here, and I want to get them started on the right webbed foot. Posting will necessarily be light, but bear with me and please don’t stop following the site. Thanks!