Monday: Duck pics

The duck news is pretty good: Dorothy and her six babies are all in excellent shape, and, after her molt, she and her kids are all about ready to fly. I expect to see some rudimentary flying within ten days or so.  Honey comes and goes, visiting the pond for about two days at a time, and then leaving. Lord knows where she goes, but when she’s here I feed her well: a three-course meal of duck chow, mealworms, and corn. She remains the Queen of the Pond, with no duck able to displace or chase her. She, on the other hand, is dominant over all other ducks.

And we have varied numbers of visiting ducks, mostly hens but also some drakes who haven’t “greened up”. The “pensioners” range from 12-20 in number, and since I can’t bear not to feed them (not to mention that it would be impossible to withhold food from them while trying to feed Honey and Dorothy and her kids), they’re eating me out of house and home. I spend way more on duck food than on my own food! But that’s okay by me: I get great pleasure farming ducks. The crop this year is good.

Here are a few recent pictures (videos to come).

Dorothy, with the dot on the right side of her bill clearly visible.

Dorothy preening:

Note the distinctive spotted left side of her bill, which may come in handy for identification next year:

A wing shot. Her flight feathers aren’t fully grown in, but they’re getting there:

Her beautiful speculum:

One of her babies resting on the Sacred Mound. It’s hard to believe that just 7 weeks ago they were tiny little yellow fuzzballs. Now they’re “mini ducks”: freshly minted and beautiful mallards.

Note how far back on their body their legs are. This is ideal for swimming, but not so great for walking, which is why ducks waddle on land.

And remember, just a few weeks ago these juveniles looked like this:

One of Dorothy’s babies nibbling the algae off the back of a turtle. They enjoy these portable snacks.

An itinerant Dali duck with its bill open:

And a slightly out-of-focus but weird-looking brown duck:

We have a new mallard at the pond whom I call “Rudolph”, after Rudolph Valentino. Although he’s not yet greened up, he’s the handsomest mallard I’ve seen yet: dark of feather and huge of size. I’m hoping that he’d become Honey’s boyfriend, but she shows no interest in him and seems to be hanging around with a less handsome duck. Who knows what hens want?


  1. jezgrove
    Posted August 10, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Those ducklings certainly grow fast! (Of course, there’s a similar element to human lives too.

    As William Oldys put it in his On a Fly Drinking from His Cup:

    “Three-score summers, when they’re gone,
    Will appear as short as one”.

  2. Mark R.
    Posted August 10, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update. Some fun shots in this batch. That is a strange brown duck- a hybrid?

  3. Posted August 10, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the turtles appreciate the shell cleaning they get from the ducks.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 10, 2020 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      I wonder the same. I suspect they like it. I hope there’s someone reading this that knows the answer and can tell us.

      • Posted August 10, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        That would be nice, but I suspect that only the turtles can tell us, and they’re not talking. 🙂

        However, there is the case of the “cleaner fish” whose clients come to a particular “station” where they wait for a cleaner fish to do its work. I suppose that reveals their appreciation.

        I read that some cleaner fishes have mimics. When a client fish comes to be cleaned, instead of cleaning, the mimic cleaner fish takes a bite out of the client. At least turtles shouldn’t have to worry about that.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 15, 2020 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, the cleaner fish are cool, and I’ve heard of those a$$hole mimics too!

  4. Mike
    Posted August 10, 2020 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Are there any longitudinal studies of the variation in beak pigmentation over time within individuals? I guess the pigment (like Dorothy’s spots) is in the keratin layer (the cuticle) and not in the skin cells themselves. That material gets secreted and abraded or shed over time. I wonder how it changes coloration. There might be specific kinds of changes in older versus younger individuals.

    • Posted August 10, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      All I know is that Honey’s beak pattern has remained nearly constant (with variations in intensity of the pigmentation) over four years.

      • Mike
        Posted August 10, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it’s the “nearly constant” that seems interesting. Is the variation random, or is there progressive change in size and location of the spots or splotches? I don’t doubt that it’s the same hen that comes back to Botany Pond each year (who wouldn’t want to come back with all that duck chow), but the reliability of the ID based on the bill pattern (and how the pattern typically changes over time) would be fun to know more about. And I guess other ducks could also use those patterns to identify individuals.

  5. rickflick
    Posted August 10, 2020 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Speculum has hints of green. Iridescence presumably.

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