Honey is back! (probably)

March 16, 2022 • 9:00 am

Although I’m far from Botany Pond, a handful of ducks have arrived, though they seem to come and go.  But one of the new “regulars” appears to be my beloved hen Honey, at least judging from the photos I’ve received and the behavior that’s reported to me.

Here’s a new photo. Note the distinctive black-pigmented triangle where the posterior part of her right bill meets her head (see red arrow). I have seen that pattern in no other duck. (This photo was taken by Team Duck member Jean Greenberg a few days ago.) Note as well the elongated black pattern anterior to that triangle.

Both of these features have been seen in Honey in previous years, though the pattern changes a tad from year to year.

Here’s her bill in 2018:

And last summer:

Not only do the patterns match, but so does her behavior. She’s always been the Alpha Hen of the pond, driving away the other ducks. She’s now eating from the hand, and driving away any ducks that intrude, nipping feathers from their butts. That is absolutely typical behavior of Honey.

If that is her, and I’ll verify for sure when I return, it will be her sixth year in a row that I know of in Botany Pond (I didn’t observe before that). She’s fledged thirty ducklings in all that time, and, if Facilities doesn’t decide to drain and redo the pond this summer, she’ll produce more. Keep your fingers crossed! It’s even possible that she’ll mate and start building a nest before I return in early April.

12 thoughts on “Honey is back! (probably)

  1. O, JOY! That’s Honey! She’s wondering where Jerry is, with the bag of mealworms and duck pellets, though I’m sure Prof. Greenberg is taking good care of her. Many thanks!

    1. I’m sure that the duck staff explains why JC couldn’t be there in person at this time, and that they’ll still receive the 5-star care and support they are accustomed to.

  2. Aw – I am so happy about Honey’s safe return. Hope that the pond redo is held back until after the season’s ducklings are fledged.

  3. The results of the rabbit hole I went down are in. The accumulated wisdom of the Internet is thus…

    Apparently, the yellow pigmentation in a duck’s bill is the same as the pigmentation in its egg yolks. When female ducks lay eggs, there isn’t enough of the pigment to go around so the bill develops patches where the underlying melanin shows through.

    I couldn’t find out if female duck bills go yellow again when not manufacturing eggs or if the effect is cumulative over the duck’s life. Nor could I find out how persistent the pattern of the patches is.

    1. There are small variations visible between the annual “bill prints” presented, so it doesn’t seem to be an open and shut, uh, bill.
      Did your rabbit hole include foot-pigmentation patterns? Is there persistent variation there (which could include random tears, healing and scarring too) for a different set of random-ish characteristics?

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