Duck update: my hen isn’t Honey

Well, my pair of mallards returned to the pond yesterday afternoon.  I walked home, but without duck food as I thought they’d gone for good. But I whistled as I walked by the pond, just to be sure.  And there were immediately two “plops” in the water as the pair, cavorting on the bank, jumped in and swam to me.

I realized that I had to go back to my lab and get some duck food, which took me about five minutes. To re-enter the building, I walk up a flight of stairs and then turn left into a covered breezeway that leads to the door.

When I returned five minutes later, the pair of ducks were waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me! They had exited the pond and gone to the last place they’d seen me. That was adorable.

I fed them a big ration of corn on land (always more efficient as they can eat faster and don’t miss the kernels that sink to the pond bottom), and then they took them to the water for their mealworms. But I photographed them on land as I wanted to see if the hen’s feet had the same pattern as Honey’s.

First, here’s the handsome pair (I still haven’t named them, but it’s time):


I photographed the feet, but didn’t notice until I wrote this post that the new hen is missing a toe on her left foot! She’s maimed!

She seems to swim okay, but I hope she’s not somehow slowed down:

At any rate, here is Honey (and her feet) from last year. You see that she had all her toes, and her feet were brighter and much more mottled than the present hen’s. Unless Honey lost a toe over the winter, and her feet and bill changed color, what I have is a new duck:

Honey the duck



  1. GBJames
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Hold on there, Doc! I don’t think the missing toe is strong evidence here. After all some duck lost it’s toe and it might as easily have been Honey who was the victim as any other hen. (Unless, of course, this is a congenital deficiency.)

  2. Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    A friend’s mother when I was a teenager was feeding two geese that regularly swam by her house (on the beach). Pretty soon there were three, then five, then eight. She took a floatable lounge chair and launched herself in it from their dock and the geese swam about her begging for noms. She floated in it, tossed bread into the water and made goose sounds. They came to her. Eventually, we counted 67 (!!) geese swimming about her for noms.

  3. Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    NAME ONE GETHYN!!! Please!

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I see ultralight flying lessons in PCC(E)’s future

  5. BobTerrace
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I suggest pecksniffian as a name.

  6. Liz
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Mallary Mae for the female. The names Mallary/Mallory (I like this spelling better but it’s less like mallard) mean “unlucky” (because of the toe) but the origin of Mae is based on the Roman goddess of growth or spring growth. Jamie for the male duck. I’d go with Mallory Mae or Mallory something with one syllable and Jamie for the male.

  7. Taskin
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    That’s a great story! The green head and orange feet of the male are spectacular 🙂

  8. Monika
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The ducks have trained you well. 😉

  9. busterggi
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

  10. Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Carmela and Vito
    Carmela, like caramel for her coloring and similarly sweet confection as honey and Vito for the handsome drake named for Vito Corleone ( married to Carmela.)

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Also VIto is Latin for six toes. Lol.

      • Liz
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Carmela and Vito. This is good, too.

  11. Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Are the ducks capable of eating whole corn or does it need to be cracked corn?

    Twenty five years ago, there was an awful noise outside my house in the middle of the night and when we went outside, a predator had killed the hen duck nesting outside. There were eleven eggs which we brought in the house. We bought an incubator and set it up in the dining room. Had to get my kids up at 2am one morning so they could watch the ducks hatch and then had a pen with a inflatable kids pool in the back yard for them. When they were old enough, we released them into a nearby pond, all eleven of them. A proud moment in parenting.

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      They eat frozen corn which I defrost in warm water immediately before I feed them. I tried peas this year, but neither duck will touch them. Good on you for saving the ducklings!

  12. Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Songbird bills change color, as they grow similar to our fingernails. I’m not sure if the same is true for duck bills, but if so, that could explain a change in bill color. I’ve seen that other factors can affect a duck’s bill color as well.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I was wondering about that too. I’d noticed PCCE’s previous concept that the bill patterning on the hen “Honey” and wondered about the stability of such patterning. But, it’s PCCE’s pocket that supplies the food. It give him something to do between feeding sqrlz.

  13. George
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Any interest in Donald and Daisy?

  14. Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    George and Gracie.

    • George
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      I like that suggestion. Other celebrity ideas –
      Liz (Taylor) and Richard (Burton)
      Oprah and Steadman
      Spencer (Tracy) and Katharine (Hepburn)
      Ilsa and Rick (from Casablanca – this one is fast moving up the ranks)
      Nick and Nora (The Thin Man)
      Victoria and Albert
      Marie and Pierre (Curie)
      Mildred and Richard (Loving)
      Diego (Rivera) and Frida (Kahlo)
      Bonnie and Clyde
      Michelle and Barack (Obama)
      Ricky and Lucy
      Morticia and Gomez (Addams)
      Marge and Homer (Simpson)
      Wilma and Fred (Flintstone)

      I think I would go with Michelle and Barack or Ilsa and Rick.

  15. Roger
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Barack and Michelle!!

  16. Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’m still on the fence about her ID. I see no reason why feet colour can’t change with the seasons or age (especially if Honey was still a juvenile last year). Leg and feet colour in fact do change over time and seasons in the gull family, especially among young individuals. The same may be true of ducks, though I’m definitely not sure.

    Maybe name them Honeydeux and Cantaloupe!

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      Per Cornell’s site, Birds of North America:

      Legs And Feet
      Hatchlings have dull-orange feet with contrasting grayish-brown pattern. Juvenile female legs and feet sometimes quite yellowish. Adult feet orange-red.”

      So, as with bill markings/colors, the same properties change over time with feet.

  17. Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh well, a new friend at least.

  18. Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Whom ever! She’s beautiful! What a nice pair! Lucky You! 🦆👍❤️

  19. Mark R.
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Poor girl! Does the missing toe affect her ability to walk? Apparently not, but maybe she has more of a waddle?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I routinely see pigeons walking around with about a half-toe on the mangled stump of a foot without apparent difficulty. If she can swim straight and faster than a fox can then that’s probably sufficient for evolution’s purposes.

  20. Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Kitch & Cinq

  21. Markham Thomas
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Dee and Ay…

  22. Posted March 23, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    That settles it then – You are Legend, PCC(E)!
    There must have been talk about the kindly man who whistles three times and voila, food appears before ducks’ bills.

    Names could be Manfred Mann and Manuka. In a corny way, I’m kinda stuck on those monikers (Mann after the singer and also Jerry; Manuka, after Honey).

    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Scratch that. Maybe Albert (Einstein) and Mileva (Maric) who had a physical disability (displaced hip, not damaged foot).

  23. Linda Calhoun
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Why are you so sure that the hen isn’t Honey? Isn’t it possible that the injury happened after she left the pond last fall?


    • Posted March 23, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Given the color change in bill, legs, and missing to, plus the general “look” of the bird, that is my tentative conclusion. Further data could give Bayesian changes in my confidence.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

        I believe it’s more common for bare parts of mallards to change colors and markings over time than to not do so.

  24. Laurance
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Too bad there wasn’t a way to get DNA from Honey last year so that you could compare it with this year’s duck…

    Is there DNA in feathers…? (And of course it’s expensive to check DNA…)

    This duck knew to come to you, and she brought her boyfriend along. She knew. I hope you, and we, can learn about feet and bills and changes in bills and can make an educated guess if this is indeed Honey coming back to you.

    I hope it’s Honey. I really really hope it’s really Honey who remembers you and has come back. I know I want Honey to come back to you.

  25. grasshopper
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. It could be a drake, of course, but they don’t quack. Neither do hens, who tend to cackle and cluck.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      If the common vocalization of a mallard female isn’t what most of us think of as a classic “quack,” I don’t know what is. 🙂

  26. Roger
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Victoria and David Beckham Duck!

  27. ladyatheist
    Posted March 23, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Apparently ducks’ feet change color with the seasons:

    When was the photo of Honey taken?

  28. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    How about Angus and Caer?

  29. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    May be a hunting accident?

  30. Andrea Kenner
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    They are lovely ducks!

    You could name the male Count Quackula, and the female could be Bella Swan (or Bella Duck).

  31. Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    I suppose that during the winter, Honey befriended this duck and, pitying her because of the lost toe, told her about you.

  32. Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “Love the One Your With”
    Apologies to Stephan Stills

    Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
    And the ducks fly with the dove
    And if you can’t be with the duck you love, Honey
    Love the one you’re with

    Don’t be angry – don’t be sad
    Don’t sit crying over good times you’ve had
    There’s a duck right next to you
    And she’s just waiting for something to do

    Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
    And the ducks fly with the dove
    And if you can’t be with the duck you love, Honey
    Love the duck your with

%d bloggers like this: