Honey is a Senior Duck

September 25, 2022 • 9:15 am

As I reported during this duck season, Honey showed up in Botany Pond at the beginning of the spring (March), but then flew off somewhere else for the breeding season.  I don’t know whether she had a brood or not, much less where she spent the summer.

But then in later July she came back to molt in the safety of Botany Pond, for which I was touched and grateful. Here she is molting: you can see that she has no primary wing feathers:

Below are two pictures of her taken in late July; I used these to positively ID her from her bill markings (the dark triangles at the corners of her bill, as well as the other markings, are diagnostic of Honey):

But in the last two weeks or so I noticed that Honey is looking OLD.  Well, she’s at least six, and probably at least seven since I first met her six years ago when she was in the pond with four ducklings. The lifespan of a mallard is about 5-10 years in the wild, but can be up to 15 years in captivity—and I regard her as in “partial captivity” since she’s in a safe pond and is well fed.

Regardless, to me it looked as if her eye were not as bright and the feathers were mussed on her head. I was (and am) worried that she’s at the end of her lifespan, and (if they dredge the pond this year, giving us a duckless year in 2023), I might never see her again.  Here’s what she looked like yesterday.

Concerned, I showed these photos to a duck expert, who told me that although her head isn’t groomed and oiled (and that worries me, too, but didn’t worry the Expert), she looks otherwise healthy, with good feathers and bright eyes. She’s also as obstreperous as ever, chasing the other hens away from the food and eating well herself. She also grooms herself, but what’s with the punk hairdo?

But every time I feed her, I wonder if this will be the last time I see her before she flies away for the fall. Given the pond renovation, it may be two years before I even have a chance to see her again.

For old times’ sake, here’s a photo from two years ago: it’s Honey with her 17 ducklngs after she kidnapped Dorothy’s entire brood and had to tend two broods. (Dorothy re-nested and brought up a second brood of seven).

And every single one of the 17 fledged and left the pond. She is the World’s Best Duck Mother, and surely America’s most famous mallard.

6 thoughts on “Honey is a Senior Duck

  1. She is the World’s Best Duck Mother, and surely America’s most famous mallard. A pretty safe bet, I should think!

  2. The circle of life. She has had a good and productive one. Let’s see if she can go on for a little longer. The dredging will be a challenge for everyone, avian and human (not to mention the frogs, turtles, crayfish, fish, insects, plants, infusoria). Why are they dredging? Is it simply to restore the pond as it fills in with sediment? You’ve probably talked about this before (and before my time).

  3. I’ve been wondering about Honey, so thanks for the post.

    Something Sam Harris recently said is now etched in my mind: “Anticipating sorrow haunts our living.” His latest podcast, Preparing for the End, has been a tremendous help toward restoring much of my peace of mind. (It’s been quite a difficult time.)

    I will also have to get the book mentioned in his interview with the authors of “A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice to the End: Living Life and Facing Death”, Dr. BJ Miller and Shoshona Berger.

  4. Honey the Duck has had the best life that any wild Mallard could have. Nature will prevail though won’t it…. Nurturing and loving any little critter has the challenge of dealing with the end. It certainly isn’t easy. Jerry, you will, at least, have the deep pleasure and memories of the times together at Botany Pond. Hard to imagine that thousands of us will share the hope that Honey flies in again in 2024.

    I’ve also been wondering why the dredging knowing it will be a challenge for the mini ecosystem that exists in the pond. What’s the plan? Also wondering how long it would take for it to restore itself, if it can.

  5. It’s so sad to hear we won’t see Honey again. Still, she has given many of us a lot of pleasure over the years.

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