Honey is back!

Here’s the sad sight that greeted me this morning: the brood huddled together on the cement edge of the pond, peeping pathetically. I spent an hour looking all around the pond for feathers, a duck carcass—and nothing. And there was no sign of mom.

I went back to my office and spent another half hour looking up local wildlife rehabbers in case she didn’t show up and I had to have the brood taken to a rehab center for further rearing (thanks to Tara Tanaka for advice). I compiled a list of local rescuers, and then, before calling them (I was going to wait half a day), decided to make one last check downstairs. As I walked out, Honey came waddling up toward me on the sidewalk. I was flooded with joy:

She jumped in the water and quacked, and I could tell she was hungry. I went upstairs and got a lot of food, and then fed her. She was ravenous. Where had she been?

This is out of focus because my hands were shaking. But you can also see how vigorously she was eating.  Lord love a duck!

After the meal, she went back to the duck island, where the little ones were sleeping, exhausted. How long had they been motherless? She immediately took up guard duty.

The brood was sleeping together; at least they had the sense to get on the island even before mom returned.

Meanwhile, Hank and Frank are sleeping it off as if nothing had happened.

I’m so glad I didn’t have to call a wildlife rehabilitator to take the ducklings and rear them somewhere else. I was so looking forward to seeing them grow and fledge, and now it looks as if that will happen.

But where did Mom go? In all the months I’ve known her, she’s never left her brood. I think she needs a GPS tag.



  1. Teresa Carson
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Can’t a mother get a short coffee break? I personally think that she knows the ducklings are a little older now and can fend for themselves for an hour or so.

    • Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Well, I was with her the whole time she reared up four ducklings last year, and I NEVER saw them without her, right up to the time they fledged.

      • George
        Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Could it be that rearing eight ducklings is so much more exhausting than rearing four? My mother had five kids in 8 years (yes – we were catholic). I think that qualifies her for sainthood. Honey deserves a break and the duck equivalent of sainthood.

    • Dominic
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      yep! Having 8 is because nature must allow for a lot of failures. Over a lifetime a duck will have many chances to nest & so it makes sense to build in a lot of possible attrition. it is quite unnatural I suppose to expect a 100% success, as they must surely otherwise outrun their food supply.

  2. Claudia Baker
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    “But where did Mom go?”

    1) She probably just needed a break. Eight kids! Yikes, that would be exhausting.

    2) She has a boyfriend across town and needed to spend some time with him without Frank judging her.

    How adorable is that, that she waddled up to meet you?!

    • Dominic
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Boyfriend was human!

      Cupboard love…

    • Lynn Wilhelm
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      That was adorable!!

  3. Larry Smith
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Girls’ night out!

    So glad all is OK!

    • George
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Sometimes a woman just needs that me time. Maybe PCC(e) needs to check out some pharmaceuticals for Honey.

  4. Debbie Coplan
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I love the picture of her waddling down the sidewalk.
    A red carpet would be in order there.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Me too! She knows who to turn to and who she can trust in times of need.

      I hope there was no human intervention in her disappearance.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Abelard & Heloise, Tristan & Isolde, Daisy & Gatsby — none of these star-crossed couples got anything in the vicissitudes department on you and that damn duck. 🙂

    • Diane G
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:15 am | Permalink


  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Well that’s a relief! She was at the ducktician getting her flippers coloured & feather highlights [two-for-one offer midweek] obvs.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Just a guess but I saw this just a couple of days ago on my walk. Mother duck had all the little ones bunched in the grass. I stopped what I thought was a good distance. Then mom just took off and left all the little ones. All the ducks then went for the water and swam along the bank. I got the hell out of there. When I came by 10 or 15 minutes later she was back. So maybe something or someone got too close and caused her to do the same.

    Now these ducks are not as tame or use to people as yours but still. I thought maybe the reason this one took off was to get the intruder distracted away?

    • Diane G
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      I’ve encountered female pheasants with young that do the same. Given how startling it is to have a previously unforeseen large game bird flush loudly right in front of you, I’ve always seen it as the last resort of distraction to draw attention away from the babies. Wild turkeys do the same thing.

  8. Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    We still don’t know where she nested and hatched her brood. Maybe she returned there for some reason.

    • George
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      No one knows where the Botany Pond ducks nested and hatched their broods. Sometimes, the sites are discovered after the fact. What surprised me is that there has been at least one occasion where the nest was next to Regenstein Library which is across 57th Street. So the ducklings had to cross a street to get Botany Pond. I thought they would always stay within the Main Quadrangle – a fairly large area which would not require crossing streets. It is bounded by 57th St on the north, 59th St on the south, Ellis on the west and University on the East. An area 1/4 of a mile by 3/16 of a mile – 30 acres (about 12 hectares) with no cars. Not sure why the nest would be outside of that area other than by mistake.

      • Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Mother ducks seem to have a propensity for crossing busy streets with their string of ducklings. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that.

        • John Dentinger
          Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          I believe that happens most often in Boston. I read that somewhere.

        • Diane G
          Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          Agree! I’ve seen 5 lanes of traffic stop for one hen duck who decided her brood needed to be on the other side.

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Soo glad she’s back. Perhaps she was out catting around.

  10. David Harper
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Blessed is he whose duck returneth.

  11. Draken
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Ducks can’t read a GPS, you silly. Everybody knows ducks fly on AWACS instruction only.

    • Posted June 12, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Somebody needs Honey to have a GPS tag, but it isn’t Honey.

  12. Ann German
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Good job, PCCE!

  13. alexandra Moffat
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I hope nobody grabbed her and then dropped her off elsewhere or returned her close enough to find her way home. Hate the thought. Can’t think why she would leave her brood on her own.

    Good news! Thanks update!

  14. Marion
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Re: “the CEMENT edge of the pond…” Cement is to concrete as flour is to cake.

    • George
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      If Jed Clampett (of the Beverly Hillbillies for those of you unfamiliar with 1960s American television)can call his swimming pool the “seeement pond” – then cement it is.

    • Bob Gilbert
      Posted June 12, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Indeed —

      Concrete = Sand + Aggregate + Water + Cement

      Cement alone is akin to dust blowing in the wind — hardly a suitable substance on which ducklings could stand or walk.

      • Posted June 12, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Okay, okay, I was wrong. But what would behoove people to come over here and correct me about that? It was a traumatic situation for me, and people want to correct me about cement? JEBUS!

        • George
          Posted June 12, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          I did not correct you – I (and Jed Clampett) supported you.

          • Diane G
            Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:28 am | Permalink

            And what higher authority could there be than Jed Clampett?!

  15. Posted June 12, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised if she got lost after chasing away a predator -perhaps a raccoon. Or, more likely, SHE was chased by a predator and got lost.

    Glad to see she’s made it. If it was a predator, I hope it found an easier meal elsewhere and won’t come back.

    • Posted June 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Something happened at the pond–Hank is also exhausted and sleeping on the grass. If it was a predator, I hope it doesn’t return, as it didn’t get any ducks.

      • Posted June 12, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I guess it would be too much to ask you to get a tent and camp out at Botany pond for a few days, huh Prof?

      • Diane G
        Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        According to your colleague-whose name I don’t remember but whose Botany Pond vid I sent you–feral cats are the most dangerous predator in the area. But I can’t imagine there could be feral cats around that your wouldn’t have noticed!

  16. Christopher
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    GPS? After watching a PBS Nature program about a guy who was outfitting a variety of animals with cameras (rays, meerkats, a monkey of some kind) I wonder if one could do the same. I don’t know how a camera would work on a duck though, without affecting swimming/diving, walking, and preening but if it could be done, wouldn’t it be great to have a duck’s eye view of the world?

  17. Dale Pickard
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Hey, Dr. Coyne! Thanks for caring. Our better world is made up of countless instances of such concern for others – especially the innocent. Go Ducklings!

  18. Frank Bath
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Good news! Perhaps she was being harassed by the drakes, flew off to elude them and got lost, or the light closed in.

  19. Posted June 12, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink


  20. Laurance
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    You can’t imagine (but I do think you can) how happy I am to hear that Honey is back!!!

    This morning I read the anxious news, then left the house to go and pick up my Favorite Family Member and go with him to Book Club. He recently subscribed to your website after I forwarded the Caturday offering about the wonderful Maine Coon Cats, and today he said that he, too, had read about Honey going missing.

    I suspect he’ll be as happy as I am to hear that Honey is back. Thanks for the good news!

  21. Posted June 12, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Hallelujah! Honey is back1

  22. Posted June 12, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    “Old mother duck went out one day
    Over the hills and far away…”

    I am very glad that Honey returned!

  23. David Coxill
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    What a big softie you are ,but i know how you feel .
    Imagine you have 4 cats ,it is 11.30pm ,3 of them are locked in the kitchen having been fed .
    And you are on your front door step shaking a bag of cat treats and calling the name of the missing cat ,the relief when you hear the bell on their collar.

    But sometimes it doesn’t end there .Sometimes the bloody cat will sit back on it’s hind legs and just look at you .And if you go to pick them up they will run off .
    And when they finally decide to come indoors they have the nerve to meow because they are hungry .

    Rant over ,seems i have gotten off the topic at hand .
    But it is nice to know that 55.000 odd people might be taking an interest in you and your Ducks .

    • Diane G
      Posted June 13, 2018 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      One of my cats was once lost for 10 days! I don’t think you’re off topic at all–lost duck, lost cat–if we’re involved in their usually unremarked upon but, to the informed observer, strikingly identifiable-with lives, we all experience the same emotions. Probably not all that different from what the duck/cat/whatever is experiencing, only the latter cannot think about all the potential pitfalls an absence portends the way we can. Thank goodness!

  24. Andrea Kenner
    Posted June 12, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad she’s home!

  25. Posted June 12, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Decoy? Something very unusual happened for Honey to behave so unusually. Could’ve been a fox or a hawk or something or someone.

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