Dorothy flies up to her nest

April 20, 2022 • 1:01 pm

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!

6 thoughts on “Dorothy flies up to her nest

  1. My guess is that Pushkin reacted instinctively to a nearby duck unexpectedly taking off, the standard response to a threat at ground level. He flew a short distance before it clicked that his mate was just flying up to the nest and there was no threat.

    1. Yes, she was definitely here several weeks ago but left. I saw a new hen in the pond today, but couldn’t get a bead on whether she was Honey as she left. I am sad because I think she’s nesting somewhere else. This would have been my sixth year with her.

  2. Every year there is some new twist to the duck-nesting story on Botany Pond. The earlier post about this new nest location was the first time I’d heard that nesting on buildings was an urban adaptation, but it makes sense. If only they’d think ahead to the hatching process when making their decision!

  3. Hi Jerry; entirely off-topic, my apologies, but I know you’d like to know this. Richard Dawkins has uploaded ‘Christopher Hitchens’ Last Interview (uncut)’ (that’s the full title) on his own YT channel. I didn’t know he had one!
    I’ve just started listening (it’s audio only) and it’s so bittersweet knowing Christopher’s voice is no more.

  4. PCC I believe you said before that mallards are normally ground nesters?

    You/we may be witnessing evolutionary change in action. If the presence of human structures (not just at Botany pond, but elsewhere too) results in building-nesters successfully bringing more offspring to adulthood, then presumably the “nest high up” instinct will increase in the population. 🙂

    Although it’s really impossible to say, given we don’t know the comparative success rate of ground-nesting mallards and we don’t even really know if Dorothy’s and Honey’s strategy leads to a more than average number of their chicks making it through their first migration. Still, there’s probably a good research study or two on the topic of whether the presence of human buildings are changing mallard nesting behavior.

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