Duck report: flying home

This morning, as usual, I ventured out to the pond with a tub of defrosted frozen corn and a cup of mealworms. My pair of ducks weren’t visible, but I decided to whistle for them anyway. After a few whistles, I suddenly heard a loud series of quacks, and both ducks came flying toward the pond from god knows where, with the female quacking constantly and the male, silent, right behind her. They skidded into the water right at my feet in the shallow end of the pond, clearly ready for breakfast. It was incredibly cute. Although I almost always see them walking or swimming, it was a treat to see them flying, and they were navigating quite well through the trees and over the bushes.

The hen (still unnamed):

They do love their mealworms!



  1. Taskin
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    What a lovely thing to happen! At least one of those ducks needs to be called Lucky. 🙂

  2. Posted March 19, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    As the old joke has it,
    “What is the difference between a duck?”
    “One of its legs is both the same!”

    It’s the same duck!
    I’d call the male Bill 🙂
    You are a dab hand at this duck mud-larky…

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Odd you bring it up. I had a Mallard in the back yard just a while ago. Had our first good rain in many months so maybe he was out testing the grass.

  4. GBJames
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’m convinced it is Honey and her beau. I don’t trust the bill pattern and eye evidence.

    Who else would come quacking from who-knows-where at the sound of a whistle?

    • Posted March 19, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      I’d like to think it was Honey, but we should always be wary of believing what makes us feel good. I guess, like Feynman, I’ll have to live in doubt. . . .

      • GBJames
        Posted March 19, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        It is the behavioral evidence that I find compelling. I don’t have a personal relationship with her to distort my views!

    • Posted March 20, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget he has been feeding the new ducks for some days now. They are probably just as conditioned to follow the whistle as Honey is.

      • GBJames
        Posted March 20, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        But that wasn’t the case when the behavior was first reported!

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Maybe capture some video on your little Lumix next time they react to the Chicago Prof ‘call of the mealworm’? It would be fun to see.

    • Posted March 19, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I had my camera with me to do a short video as they came swimming toward me, but I had no idea that they’d fly in. Even that would be hard to film, as the direction they came from was unexpected, and they came in FAST!

      • Posted March 19, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Ducks are the speedsters of the avian world – at least in level flight. They have small wings compared to their body size and thus have a very high wing loading. This means in order to produce enough lift they have to fly fast (hence the long take off).

  6. Posted March 19, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Is that duck honey?
    Is there a God?
    Is the First Amendment doomed?
    Will Trump ever be impeached?

    Life without faith is hard.

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    You wrote in a previous post that they don’t eat their peas (shame on them!). But would they eat frozen carrots? I ask because of the carotenoids. The more carotenoids for both of them, the better.

  8. William Stewart
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Love the ducks. Also want to recommend a good book on the brain: The Human Advantage by Suzana Herculano-Houzel. See also her TED talk.

  9. Linda Calhoun
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I think your hen is Honey.

    Here’s why: first, wild animals of all sorts are known to return to a reliable food supply. The fact that this hen responded to your whistle is an added clue.

    Second, although I’m a birder, I don’t know a lot about waterfowl, since I live in the high desert, but I do know that in ungulates, hoof mottles in young animals tend to fill in as they mature, and keratin is keratin, regardless of the species.

    But my main reason is that another mallard hen has not shown up in response to your whistle and your distribution of food. It seems to me that if this hen is not the original Honey, you’d have another girl there exhibiting responsive behavior.


  10. Posted March 19, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Gotta either be Honey or a daughter that also got fed.

    If the latter, you can name her Sonja Hen(ie).

  11. Posted March 19, 2018 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    defrosted frozen corn

    aka…. corn?

  12. Hempenstein
    Posted March 19, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Can you find someone who will band these two so at least you don’t have to go thru the quandary next year?

    • Posted March 20, 2018 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      It’s illegal for anybody to touch wild waterfowl except for people expressly authorized by USFWS, I think, to band them.

      • GBJames
        Posted March 20, 2018 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        You can get a permit to band birds from the USGS. You need to take a bit of training so you know what you’re doing and submit a research proposal. You can do this! 😉

  13. Posted March 19, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Manfred and Manuka (some kind of Honey she is).
    IIRC, Honey’s mate of last year was a little shy of you and tended to hang back. This male seems comfortable around you, as is the female.

  14. Bruce Tripp
    Posted March 20, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    You do know that only hens mallard and hen black ducks quack. The drakes gives sort of a grunt. Most other species of ducks peep or whistle.

    • Posted March 20, 2018 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      I knew that in mallards only the hens quack, but I didn’t know that only two duck species quacked at all. I find the quacks strangely soothing.

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