Proprietors’ wildlife photos and videos: Tuesday duck report

UPDATE: Feeding everyone at the pond this morning, we could count only six ducklings with Dorothy. We found no stragglers, heard no peeping of lost babies, and could find no bodies. It’s pretty clear that one has vanished, and I suspect predation (perhaps raccoons or Cooper’s hawks). I am heartbroken.


It’s been a while since I weighed in with a duck report, so here it is. All is pretty well on Botany Pond: Honey’s 17 babies are all still there, and, on  4X/day feedings, have grown HUGE. Moreover, they’ve started flying: not huge flights, but short hops in the pond and from the bank to the pond. Their primary feathers are large and they’ll soon be flapping higher up, though when they’ll fly away for good is anybody’s guess.

Dorothy still has her seven babies, which jumped from the third-floor ledge 8 days ago. They’re eating ravenously, though I have to say that Dorothy isn’t nearly as good a mom as Honey, and doesn’t keep her brood together very well. (I spend a lot of time herding errant ducklings back to the brood, which is very stressful.) Fortunately, Honey and her Flotilla are leaving Dorothy and her brood pretty much alone, so I am cautiously optimistic.

I thought I’d show the equipment and supplies I use to keep the ducks going. The three green trash containers are full of duck food, the tan bag is what I use to bring food to the pond, there is a bag and three boxes of mealworms, as well as masks to wear to the pond, and there are four spare “duck signs” about herons, pond rules, etc. The two boxes at the far left have equipment for rescuing and sequestering orphan or removed ducklings, though I haven’t had to do that for a while. As you see, it takes a village! I spend a lot more on duck food than on Coyne food!

Honey, alone and with her brood:

Overlooking her 17 ducklings, only half of which have her genes. Honey is at left keeping watch.

Sometimes she sleeps, but not often during the day:

Here are five short videos from Jean Greenberg of the brood in action. Diving practice on June 13:

Before they flew, the ducks engaged in vigorous wing-flapping as they walked—all practice for flying.

Watch to the end to see the Big Flap:

And at last—FLIGHT, after a bit more than six weeks. Not an impressive flight, to be sure, but they’re still airborne for a short time.

And some short flights in the pond.

Honey’s gang isn’t eating as much of my vet-grade food as before; I think they’re into dabbling for pond food big time, and that’s good:

We mustn’t forget the turtles. Many of the big ones leave the pond to walk away, and, not knowing how they’ll survive, I put them back. Perhaps they’re trying to breed, and maybe I should let them be. Do any readers know about this?

I haven’t forgotten about Dorothy’s new family, but that’s a separate post. Here are three teasers (they’ve learned to use the duck ramp to come ashore).

28 thoughts on “Proprietors’ wildlife photos and videos: Tuesday duck report

  1. My knowledge of turtles is pretty shallow so grains of salt here. I think turtles leave water for various reasons. Females to get to higher ground and softer soil to lays eggs, and males leave water to mate with females who are not related to them. Mortality obviously increases as a result of these instincts, as there are roads to cross.

  2. Shouldn’t all of this be deductible. This is your primary job and workplace. Also a non profit.

        1. I think this would have to go on a Schedule C form. Regular deductions would require a tax-deducktable organization be involved and the contributions would be unlikely to be great enough to balance against the standard deducktion he is likely already taking.

  3. Fortunately, Honey and her Flotilla are leaving Dorothy and her brood pretty much alone …

    Heartrending to hear about the lost duckling.

    But good to hear that Honey and Dorothy are maintaining their modus vivendi and that the Pax Coyniana established at Botany continues.

      1. I once knew a gal who went by the moniker “Mean Jean the Dancin’ Machine” — but at the moment I can’t think of a way to tie that story to ducks. 🙂

  4. The large turtles leaving the pond are almost certainly females laying eggs. The pictures show red-eared turtles- I’ve seen them go over a quarter mile from water to lay eggs in a sunny spot. Male red-ears are smaller, have very long front claws and a large, fat tail.

    1. Yeah I have found these same turtles leave the neighbour’s big pond and journey over my yard. Of course I pick them up and look at them then set them back the way they were going. I suspect they are going elsewhere toward the creek that runs down he back of my house so looking for another water source and expect that they know what they are doing. However, I think some turtles do end up in the middle of nowhere and dried up. I remember putting them in the pond at the park I worked at and they eagerly swam into it so they seemed to be yearning for water.

        1. No, they live in a forested pond no humans disturb and they are already on the march when I encounter them.

  5. Very sad news on the missing duckling.
    I remain overall optimistic though. Honey is an old hand, while as far as we know this is Dorothy’s first year. She’ll hopefully learn what works and what doesn’t, and also hopefully be better each future time. But to get better, she needs this experience. Having her ducklings raised by Honey would not have helped her long-term ability to successfully bring babies to adulthood.

  6. Wikipedia says female red eared sliders tend to be bigger, So from mid to late summer big turtles leaving the pond seem likely to be looking for a place to lay eggs.

  7. “Overlooking her 17 ducklings, only half of which have her genes. Honey is at left keeping watch.”

    You’ve mentioned that Dorothy might be Honey’s offspring so perhaps this is not the case. Honey may know better!

  8. Commenters above are correct. Large sliders leaving the pond in June are females off to nest someplace. You can put them back but the vasotocin will just drive them out again when you’re not looking. They can do fine without water for a couple of weeks.
    Red-eared sliders are native to the Mississippi River drainage south of Iowa. It might be too cold for successful breeding in Chicago. Do you ever see hatchlings?

    1. Thanks for this; they do repeatedly leave the pond and I had no idea they could do without water. I don’t know where they’d nest on campus, and I’ve never seen a hatchling.

      1. Any bit of lawn or dirt under shrubbery would do; they are not picky. Look for a 3-4″ circle of disturbed dirt in nearby lawns. They might not be hatching.

        1. My friend has turtles laying eggs in his yard every year. It happens on the lawn and usually raccoons get the eggs unless he’s successful in protection. But the raccoons are wily and this year they won.

  9. Nice one, prof.
    When the hammer came down in NYC lately I bought some bird feed, worried that w/o humans and restaurants the birds would be hungry. They never visited the feeder and since I ordered when drunk I ordered a LOT.
    So what to do?
    Dog won’t eat it. Wife won’t eat it.
    So ….now every night I go to a nearby playground and feed them there. I’m quite a celebrity there now with “my” birds – starlings and pigeons.

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