Dorothy’s ducklings reach a milestone

July 15, 2020 • 10:30 am

Yesterday I noticed for the first time that Dorothy’s ducklings, now 3½ weeks old, are starting to grow their adult feathers, so their duckling down will gradually disappear. The feathers start on the shoulders and wings (looking like epaulets) and also on the tail, and move forward and backwards till the two fields meet.  Here are a few pics of this milestone: the duckling equivalent of adult teeth:

As I’ve mentioned before, a family of Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii; mom, dad, and three babies) live about a block south of the pond in a tree, and all of them fly around the pond, sometimes emitting an eering screech and occasionally perching in trees right above the ducks. The ducks, of course, hear or see them well before I do, emitting a warning quack that gets all of them in the water, where they freeze until the hawk is gone. Although a Cooper’s can’t, I think, take an adult duck, I fear that the babies are potential prey, though I haven’t seen any attacks. (Dorothy did lose one duckling a few weeks ago, though.)

I keep my fingers crossed and yell and clap at the hawks until they fly away.  I ask readers NOT to give me information, videos, or photos of Cooper’s hawks attacking ducklings. That would upset me, and I already assume that they could attack the babies and do the best I can to drive away the raptors. I hope my assumption is wrong.

Here’s a hawk (not sure if it’s an adult or juvenile) that perched in a tree right above where Dorothy and her babies were being fed. It stayed there a while but didn’t attack:

8 thoughts on “Dorothy’s ducklings reach a milestone

  1. Looks like an adult hawk to me. Juvenile Cooper’s Hawks look remarkably similar to a Peregrine. Last year, I found a dead juvenile Cooper on my lawn. I took a photo and sent it to Field Museum (thinking it was a Peregrine) and they informed me so.

    I’d much prefer the hawks in my neighborhood (there are so many now days!) focus their hunting on the pigeons and not so much on songbirds, or ducks.

  2. The Cooper’s are not likely to go into the water after the ducklings unless they are along the edge in the shallows. If a Peregrine comes along, that is another story. Peregrines were called “duck hawks'” in the past. Are there Ospreys in the neighborhood? That is another story too.

  3. The Cooper’s Hawk is an immature. I’m not sure whether it’s a bird born this year or last—-Cooper’s Hawks keep their immature plumage for about a year (although Wikipedia informs me that this species of hawk may retain up to about a third of its immature feathers when moulting to adult plumage, meaning second-year birds may not look fully adult). Wikipedia also informs me that the moult starts in late April or early May and lasts about four months. I can’t really see any adult features on this hawk so I’m tempted to say it’s a 2020 bird but I really don’t know.

    When I started birding in the 70s Cooper’s Hawks were uncommon and we were excited when we saw one. Now they’re all over the place.

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