Houston, we have ducks!

I was told by our office staff that two ducks had arrived at our pond (“Botany Pond”) in the last few days, and yesterday I went out to see. I walked to the pond’s edge and gave the same three-note whistle that I used to call Honey last year. And, sure enough, a mallard hen—followed by her handsome boyfriend—came swimming toward me. She then paddled by the edge of the pond, looking expectant. Sadly, I had no food in my hands, and even more sadly, the hen didn’t seem to be my beloved Honey. I had so hoped she’d return this year! This duck, as you’ll see, has beak markings that distinguish her from Honey.

Some iPhone photos of the new ducks:

The pair:

The beautiful hen:

Some beak photos; note that there is no mottling on the edges of her beak:

 

Here is Honey’s bill from last year, which looks very different. The new duck lacks Honey’s darker stippling, and Honey lacked the big light patch at the tip of the bill:

 

Honey was adorable!

When the duck came to my whistle, my heart leapt, for I thought it was Honey remembering how I called her. It’s still a mystery why the hen (but not the drake) came when I whistled: my unrealistic hope is that this is one of Honey’s offspring—the only female in the brood of four—that I helped raise to fledging.

Well, of course I can’t let ducks go unfed, even if they’re undocumented immigrants, so I immediately drove to the store and bought three bags of frozen corn. I also have a nearly full bag of mealworms left over from last year. If these ducks are here today, they shall feast. But I’m still hoping that my Honey will return.

30 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    You are a sucker for a whistle, or maybe the duck is? Honey come home…

  2. Posted March 10, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I wonder if duck billed dinosaurs would have liked frozen (or thawed) corn?

    When we get mallard couples around here we always name them “George and Marge”. No, I don’t know why.

  3. David Coxill
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Wot a big softie you are ,hope Honey turns up soon.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Good news!

  5. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Are the bill markings permanent, or do they change over time? Hoping you have many ducks to feed today.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 10, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      According to Cornell’s Birds of North America, they can change with age and with molting cycle:

      Bill broad, about as long as the head, and higher than broad at the base. Middle part of culmen slightly concave but wide, flat, broadly rounded tip is convex. Culmen and tip dull black. Hatchling bill flesh-colored and spotted black with a dull-black tip. Juvenile male bill color blend of pale olive and yellowish, sometimes with very dark patch on upper mandible. Juvenile female bill color blend of dusky olive and yellowish; may have dark blotches on upper mandible. In male Definitive Alternate plumage, bill almost entirely yellow with greenish cast, while in female Definitive Alternate plumage, bill ranges from brownish olive to orange, usually with blackish blotches focused on midsection of upper mandible. Bill of male Definitive Basic plumage a duller yellow olive, usually without black patches, while bill of female Definitive Basic plumage yellowish brown or brownish orange.

      • Posted March 11, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        She doesn’t have Honey’s eyes, either.

        Now I’m distressed because I don’t know for sure. I don’t think it’s her, though.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 12, 2018 at 1:39 am | Permalink

          Oh dear! How are the eyes different?

  6. Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if the beak markings disqualify this duck as being Honey. They could change with age.
    In any case, this one is used to people feeding them. If they stick around, you may wish to name them.

  7. Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Nice. I’m rooting for you — and Honey.

  8. busterggi
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    HOPE!

  9. GBJames
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Somehow I imagine Honey as Lauren Bacall.

  10. Bruce Lyon
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I would not rule out that this is the same duck. As a couple of readers suggest, beak coloration is not fixed in birds in terms of color and I suspect that pattern can change too. And the pattern of change in this duck is what we might expect with age—an increase in the dark markings. I think the black patches from last year might have expanded to become a larger patch. Note also that there is a fleck of black by the beak on the bird’s right side that looks pretty similar in shape and location across years. Check on a few photos if this is true (but also important to know whether many females have the same size shape and location of black spot). The fact that this female also swam right up to you is pretty suspicious as well, unless you are claiming to be a duck whisperer!

  11. Posted March 10, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    She responded to your whistle. I bet she’ll eat your handouts. Call her Honey and be done with it.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      🙂 Agree.

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Hasty trivia :

    Botany Bay is the name of a spaceship in Star Trek

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botany_Bay_(disambiguation)

    But also of a great number of unrelated things …

    “Botany Pond” reminded my unrelated-trivia-sensitive neural network, is all.

  13. Frank Bath
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The word’s gone out, don’t forget Jerry girls.

  14. J Cook
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Honey is a year older, could her bill have “matured”.

  15. Posted March 10, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    O, Joy!

    One bird forum says that some ducks’ beaks (and feet) can change color:
    “Sometimes it depends on the duck and breed, but yes both the bill and the feet can change color.”

    Wish we knew a lot more about Mallards and Honey!

    How many ducks have responded to your whistle, Jerry?

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      See my quote above in comment thread 5.

  16. ladyatheist
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    If it’s not Honey, could it be one of her babies? Honey2?

    • Posted March 10, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Or Honeydew or Manuka. I just love them. My Canada geese are back too.

    • Posted March 11, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted March 10, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Many internet sites report that female mallards tend to return to a place they were successful in raising a family before. And also that immature/first year birds tend to return to the place they were hatched and raised.

    It is unlikely that the drake is the same one as last year, though.

  18. Posted March 11, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Good to see the Black Dog has been banished. I’m going to assume this is Honey, returned, older, wiser, and with a more mature beak.

  19. Posted March 11, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Please feed them thawed peas, not corn. Peas are much better for them then corn.

    • Posted March 11, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      I also give them thawed frozen peas, but they don’t seem to like those as much, even when it’s the only thing I give them. But they get plenty of mealworms for protein.

  20. johzek
    Posted March 11, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    If that really is Honey you should name her boyfriend Bobby G.

  21. Posted March 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Ah, the problems of love – and of induction. 😉


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