Well, Dorothy the mallard hen is well into the nesting phase, having unfortunately built this year’s nest on the windowsill right under the air conditioner in my office and right above the breezeway roof. This poses substantial logistical problems for getting her ducklings to the pond (see here).
Nesting hens sit pretty tight for several weeks, incubating their eggs, but they’ll fly down to the pond once every few days for a snack and a drink. (Dorothy seems to fly down every day, which may be suboptimal for incubation.) She stays down for an hour or so, and I am usually around to feed her pellets and mealworms. A healthy hen makes for a happy and productive mother.
I took two short videos on my iPhone (the first I’ve put up on this site) showing Dorothy’s behavior when she’s had enough food, water, and preening and is ready to go back to the windowsill. She walks up the steps toward her nest (accompanied by her mate Pushkin, who’s been renamed from “Putin”), and then stands there for a while, bobbing her head all around as if checking the area. I’m not sure exactly why she does this, but she may indeed want to know that everything’s kosher before she gets back to the job of propagating her genes.
Here are two 30-second videos of Dorothy (and Pushkin) getting ready to fly. In the first she walks up the steps underneath her nest and stands there, looking all around with the faithful drake standing by. Enlarge the video (and the next) to see her bobbing her head about.
Here she finally takes off, and look how well she flies right into the gap under the A/C unit, where her nest is. Note too that Pushkin flies part way up with her, and then veers off. He goes back to the pond and settles down, occasionally quacking forlornly for Dorothy. He gets about an hour a day of quality time with her. Little does he know that she’s cooking up their offspring!