Update on the patio ducks: they’re leaving to live as ducks in the wide world

August 25, 2023 • 12:45 pm

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.

12 thoughts on “Update on the patio ducks: they’re leaving to live as ducks in the wide world

  1. How goes Botany Pond? I saw it during Alumni Weekend (May 18 or so). It was drained and fenced in but no work yet.

  2. Once read that the greatest gift we can give to our offspring is roots and wings. Congratulations to team duck you have accomplished this task.

  3. This has been a series of heartwarming and uplifting posts. Thanks for giving us a necessary antidote to the bad things that we keep hearing about on the news.

    Is there any likelihood, I wonder, that Mom or any of the offspring might have been so imprinted with the patio (and all its mod cons, not to mention the devoted staff) that they return next year? Or are they expected to make more rational choices next time?

  4. We’ve had one duck nesting on the patio every year for the last three years. I removed the ducklings last year and sent them to rehab. This year I decided to keep the family together. I have no idea if the ones that nested here were born here, but certainly no more than one duck from each brood could return, because that’s all we’ve had nesting here. Two years ago I had nothing to do with the ducklings, and didn’t even know about them until today.

  5. That’s wonderful news about the patio ducks! It seems they have decided it’s time to venture out into the wider world and live as ducks should. It’s always a bittersweet moment when the animals we’ve grown fond of leave, but it’s also a natural and important step for them. We can take comfort in knowing that they are embracing their natural instincts and will hopefully thrive in their new environment. Wishing them safe travels and a fulfilling life as they explore the world beyond the patio!

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