Monday: Duck report

All is well here at Botany Pond, though it’s bloody hot today: 93°F (34°C) at the moment. But the pond is shady and the ducks are paddling around in cool, fresh water.

Here are some scenes from yesterday. They all came streaming to my lunch whistle, and lined up facing me, waiting for their duckling pellets and mealworms. As always, Honey stands guard nearby. Frank and Hank haven’t put in an appearance for several days.

All order breaks down when the food is dispensed. The ducklings can now dabble for corn, though they’re not nearly as good as Honey at dabbling. I ensure that every duckling (and mom) gets a good ration.

Inevitably, they go to their “bathtub” for preening and bathing after meals. They also shake out their little wings. You can see how small they are. It will be at least a month before those wings are large enough to take the birds to the sky:

Honey stands guard at bathtime, too. Here another duck is flapping its wing-stubs.

. . .  while another, having immersed itself, reappears with a big splash:

After bathing, they then repair to the duck island for a preen and then a snooze in the heat:

Honey is ever watchful. To me she looks tired in this picture, as well she should be after shepherding a brood of unruly teenagers around in the heat. Or maybe she’s just wistful, thinking “Why on earth did I have so many kids?”

Since I don’t watch television, I learned from reader Tom that Tony Soprano of the eponymous crime series had a fondness for ducks, and fed a mom and her babies who took up residence in his swimming pool. Here’s one scene where he feeds them. Sadly, he should be giving them something other than bread!

22 Comments

  1. David Duncan
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    When will the ducklings plumage reveal their sex?

    • George
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      From Wikipedia:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mallard
      During the final period of maturity leading up to adulthood (6–10 months of age), the plumage of female juveniles remains the same while the plumage of male juveniles gradually changes to its characteristic colours. This change in plumage also applies to adult mallard males when they transition in and out of their non-breeding eclipse plumage at the beginning and the end of the summer moulting period. The adulthood age for mallards is fourteen months, and the average life expectancy is three years, but they can live to twenty.

  2. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I hope someone told him what to feed them after they saw this. I fed them bread for years, not knowing any better.

  3. allison
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Will the ducklings develop any sex differences in their feathers this year? I need to know how many girls and how many boys for the forthcoming “Name the Ducklings” contest!

    • Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Hard to tell. Last year there were three of the four with darker heads, but that was the only difference I could detect before they flew off to parts unknown. At that time I could tell the putative female, but odds are that we’ll get at least two individuals of each sex.

      • Posted June 20, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Unless my maths is wrong (which is always possibility) the odds are 71% that there will be at least three of each sex,, assuming the odds of any one bird being female are 50%.

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Love the Sopranos link – if you haven’t watched it you might want to give it a try Jerry. I know everybody says the same thing but it really is that good.

    • Ann German
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      It is eerily prescient . . . I don’t think I would have “gotten” Michael Cohen if I hadn’t watched it. The visiting duck was a recurring image for Tony, by the way.

  5. phar84
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Was taking a walk the other day and saw a mother duck protecting her last duckling.. kind of sad.

  6. George
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Botany Pond and its ducks are the ultimate clickbait – as in the click of a camera. I think it is the most photographed place on the University of Chicago campus. Another pic from a uchicago instagram account of Honey and some of her brood:

  7. Doug
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    “Why on earth did I have so many kids?”

    Is Honey a Catholic?

  8. Ken Pidcock
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure Tony Soprano fed his ducks more than bread. My partner recalled that he stored a large amount of cash in a bin where he kept food for the ducks.

    • Taz
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s correct – he bought a huge bag of duck feed. Which, besides being used to hide money, got damp and attracted a bear.

  9. XCellKen
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    It was warmer today in Chicago than Houston !!!

    • George
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      I think the ducks are very happy right now. It is cooling off rapidly. High temperature today was 95F (35C) – a record for this date in Chicago. It does not usually get this hot this early. The heat comes at the end of July, beginning of August.

      The heat broke this evening and it has been raining on and off. Temperature right now is 75F (24C). It is supposed to get down to 65F (18C) tonight. Highs for the next five days will be 68F (20C) to 72F (22C). Ducks should be more active.

  10. Mark
    Posted June 19, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve had ducks in my pool. Trust me, you don’t want ducks in your pool!

  11. Posted June 22, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    The beginning of The Sopranos, with the journey from NYC to a quiet neighborhood where houses had yards, and the mention of ducks, made me think the series would be about the beauty of nature, simple life, family and human soul. Imagine my disappointment when it turned to be about some criminal!


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