Well, our job of bringing up the University of Chicago Patio Ducks is almost done. As you may recall, mother Maria gave birth to ten babies about eight weeks ago, but they were trapped on the dorm plaza where they hatched. Because the plaza is enclosed and freedom barred by an eight-foot wall, they couldn’t leave until they flew.
Thus three of us on Team Duck took it upon ourselves to rear them to fledging. This was no easy task, as it involved schlepping food and lots of water to the plaza three times a week. But we fed them well, they grew and prospered, and now, eight weeks later, they’re able to fly. And when they get that ability, they begin flying off the plaza, as Mother Nature is calling to them: “Time to live as ducks! You need to find a pond, fly, and swim!”
Here are some photos from August 23, when the ten had become seven (three had flown), and then from today, when only four were left. We’re all very happy that they’re healthy, flying, and leaving to live in nature.
A few pictures from Wednesday. Look how big they are! You see eight because mother Maria was here, too:
Their “swimming pool”. It was the best we could do, but I’m 100% sure they’ll prosper in real water where they can swim.
Based on beak color, we decided that there were five drakes and five hens: an even distribution of offspring. Watchful Maria is on the right; she was a terrific mom.
The primary flight feathers have now grown in and are full-sized. These puppies can fly, and we’ve seen them doing short flights around the plaza.
Walking around after bathtime. At the end you can see the big wings of one “duckling.” To think that when we started they were tiny yellow balls of fluff!
And pictures of the four left taken this morning. I expect that by Monday there will be either just one or two ducks left—or none. One of them decided to go swimming, and Maria was not there. (That doesn’t mean she won’t return to look in on her brood, though. She comes and goes, probably visiting a real pond when she leaves.)
They’re full-sized mallards:
The tub hog, a male. For reasons we don’t understand, the females flew away first.
The tub hog about to nap:
I can’t convey the satisfaction it brings us to see our efforts rewarded this way. Ten ducks, originally doomed, now will have full duck lives. I suppose this is like a parent bringing up an infant and then seeing it off to college, with the whole timeline compressed into two months! Thanks to Gracemary and Marie, the other two members of Team Duck, who worked like demons to help raise these guys.