Duck report: The Battle of the Drakes

We’ll be back to Readers’ Wildlife tomorrow, but I wanted to slip in a duck report. What took place was an epic battle of the drakes that started yesterday afternoon and continues this morning. (Honey is off somewhere, perhaps sitting on her eggs.)

Since the trees outside my office haven’t yet leafed out, I get a nearly full view of the pond. About noon yesterday I looked down and saw two drakes swimming side by side, synchronously. Sometimes one would hop onto the shore and then hop back, and the synchronized swimming would resume. This went on for several hours nonstop.

Wondering what it was about, I went down to the pond with my camera, and discovered that the drakes weren’t being pals, as I thought they were, but were having a ritual battle of some sort. When they swam side by side, one would peck the other (one duck was always the peckee, the other the pecker). The peckee would eventually jump onto the bank, with the pecker looking up at him. Then the pecker would jump on the bank and chase the peckee, and the latter would jump back into the pond. This continued for several hours, until I left work. They were clearly having a battle, probably over territory. I was grateful that they didn’t seem to be hurting each other.

Here’s what it looked like yesterday afternoon (both videos were taken within the same quarter-hour period):

I think the dominant duck is Gregory, but I’m not sure; perhaps a reader could help. At any rate, the battle continues this morning. When I walked to work, I heard quacking not from the pond, but from the student union courtyard nearby. I couldn’t see the ducks, but when I checked the pond and whistled, the quacking got louder, approaching me, and suddenly there was a huge splash as both drakes plopped into the pond beside me. And then the battle continued.

Gregory is not eating and I worry that this is using up all his energy. I also wonder why the defeated duck won’t surrender and leave the pond. I don’t think he knows there’s a hen around.

UPDATE: Gregory was by himself about half an hour ago, and I fed him a big meal. He was famished! But now I see that the Peckee has returned to the pond and the passive-aggressive battles have resumed.



  1. Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Gregory Peck is earning his name!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “This pond ain’t big enough for the both of us, pardner.”

    Can’t tell one drake from another without a program.

  3. Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I call that bullying.

  4. CAS
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Strange. If one of them mated Honey, why fight? Possibly expecting more hens?

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      A nice pond and a human who feeds you is worth fighting over.

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      She could mate with more than one male and so Gregory (assuming the pecker is Gregory) might not be the father of some or all of the ducklings.

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Expecting ducklings? Frank stuck around a long time last year, seemingly protecting Honey and her babies.

  5. rickflick
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I guess macho squabbling runs across many species. I’ve seen humans doing this.

  6. Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    There are now FOUR drakes in the pond (it’s snowing), and Gregory is going nuts trying to get rid of the other three!

    • Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Wow! Game of Thrones! 🙂

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 14, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      That’s hilarious. Just as Gregory had established himself at the top in the literal pecking order, along comes a gang.

      Given that the first two ducks aren’t actually fighting, I found their behavior somewhat reminiscent of the dueling snakes trying to establish dominance after emerging from hibernation, as shown in a video clip on WEIT a few days back.

      I searched for examples of passive-aggressive behavior in animals and except for dogs, I didn’t find anything (but I think that cats must have passive-aggressive genes). However, I did find this quote from a book about such behavior in humans:

      “If a woman or a man displays a passive-aggressive pattern of behavior, exercise caution. As they say, if it walks like a duck and if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” I’ll quack to that.

    • Dominic
      Posted April 15, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Some of last year’s ducklings? do they breed in the first year? Always seems a surplus of drakes, I used to think when I lived by the river Wensum in Norwich as a child.

  7. Don Mackay
    Posted April 14, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It would be interesting to measure the testosterone levels in the drakes. I bet the pecker would have the highest(of the four).

  8. Posted April 14, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    If this continues, they will have to evolve into a social group.

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