Tuesday: Duck report

As usual, a lot is happening at Botany Pond. As I reported yesterday, I’ve located the nest of a hen, on a window ledge three floors up on a building overlooking the pond. The hen sits on her eggs (I have no idea how many) all day, making rare forays to the water for food and drink.  She flew down to me yesterday when three drakes were in the pond, and they immediately jumped her, forcing her to fly to the smaller, connected pond. After she departed the drakes got into a huge three-duck tussle. Hens will do that! But this is why I worry about the drakes.

When I got her off by herself, keeping the pugnacious drakes out of the smaller pond, I managed to feed her some corn and duck chow. A closer look suggested that this hen, who is the one roosting on the building, is not Honey (see below). I suspect, though, that Honey is nesting at another site, giving rise to the frightening possibility that we may have two broods of ducklings in the pond at once. The mind quails!

And I’m also worried that these horny and quarrelsome drakes may disturb the female when she brings her babies to the pond, so I’ve been trying to drive them away (save Gregory Peck, the dominant male) with my Super Soaker. It doesn’t work very well. They do fly away, but they come back in an hour.

Here’s the females, who needs a name, in the pond.

Her bill doesn’t look at all like Honey’s: too much black color. But I haven’t yet gotten a close look or a good picture of her.

I like the almost psychedelic patterns formed by the water of the Pond. Here’s the Yet Unnamed Hen nomming some duck chow.

Yesterday afternoon I went up to the third floor of the building next to the pond, hoping to see the hen on her nest from the inside. And I certainly did; she was right there, sitting quietly on her eggs and not obviously disturbed by my presence. It’s a very large nest made of twigs and leaves, and she’s lined the whole thing with feathers that she’s plucked from her breast. Seeing that made me almost tear up: such a good mother!

I’d like to leave her some food and water, as she was panting again, but I dare not open the window and screen lest I disturb her.

Here’s a video of her on the nest; you can see her panting a bit at the beginning.

You go, mom!


  1. Glenda Palmer
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    The locations that some city Mallard hens select to nest and brood never fails to startle me. Amazing that so many tiny ducklings survive the dive out of these nests.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      I suspect a duckling could survive a fall from any height considering Earth’s gravity and air resistance. Their maximum terminal velocity, weight, and fuzzy outer covering make it so.

  2. Roger
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    How about naming her “Henny Youngman”. That way if she ever wears a belt you could call it the “Borscht Belt”.

  3. Marlene Zuk
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Birds don’t pant, strictly speaking — they do something called “gular fluttering” and vibrate their neck muscles, which increases evaporation from their tissues. It’s quite efficient, more so than panting in, say, d*gs, because they don’t lose moisture from their tongues.

    More info: audubon.org/news/how-birds-keep-their-cool

    • Posted April 23, 2019 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Marlene. I’m relieved to hear that she’s just doing normal behavior.

  4. Posted April 23, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d pay to see a video of PCC chasing the drakes around Botany pond with his super-soaker.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Paging Chicago campus spies …

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Esther the Nester?

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes I love the water ripples and reflections- dark at the water, bright far above. Very interesting.

  7. Posted April 23, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I suggest Inna, short from Innominata.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    My selection will be Emma, after one of our cats or Darwin’s wife.

  9. CR
    Posted April 23, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Maybe just Mrs. Mallard, so when her swain shows up, you can call him McCabe.

  10. Posted April 23, 2019 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Whoa… could that be Daisy from Aug. 2017? She’s on the right in the photo here https://whyevolutionistrue.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/img_1672.jpg

  11. Posted April 23, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to suggest a good, old fashioned name for the hen, after my great-grandmother, who was, I’ve been told, beloved by my mum and her siblings and others as a great (grand) motherly figure. Unfortunately I never met her. But, in tribute, I propose the lovely old name Jemima for our lovely little hen.*

    *Jemima, I’ve discovered, was a daughter of the Biblical Job. From wiki:

    “Jemima (also written Jemimah, Hebrew: יְמִימָה‎, Yemimah) was the oldest of the three beautiful daughters of Job, named in the Bible as given to him in the later part of his life, after God made Job prosperous again. Jemima’s sisters are named as Keziah and Keren-Happuch. Job’s sons, in contrast, are not named.

    Jemima, along with her sisters, was described as the most beautiful women in the land. Also, unusually and in common with her sisters, Jemima was granted an inheritance by her father, with her brothers as might have been expected (Job 42:15). Apart from these brief references at the end of the Book of Job, Jemima is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

    Modern scholarship has cast doubt on the historical existence of the events described in the Book of Job.[1][2][3] (quelle surprise!)

    The name Jemima means “turtledove”.[4]

    In Job 42:14 (ESV):

    And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch

    Possible Arabian queen

    The Christian theologian John Gill notes that Jemima may mean either “day” or “dove”, the latter by association with the Arabic word يمامة yamāmah. Noting that there is a land in Arabia with the name al-Yamama, which had a queen called Zarqāʼ al-Yamāmah, he conjectures that the Biblical Jemima may be connected with the Yamamah of Arabic folklore.[5]”

  12. Posted April 24, 2019 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    The mind quails!

    Heh. Bird puns.


  13. Reggie Cormack
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Yet Unnamed Hen – Are we due a Duckie McDuckface?

  14. Hempenstein
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    “…giving rise to the frightening possibility that we may have two broods of ducklings in the pond at once”

    Based on the experience of my Swedish mentor (later, Secy of the Nobel Committee) and his son (who now does tours with Medicins Sans Frontiers), who together built a duck pond in their back yard a couple decades ago, this was predictable outcome.

  15. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’d like to leave her some food and water, as she was panting again, but I dare not open the window and screen lest I disturb her.

    Is the clearence between window and frame (rubber padding, or fibre ; various types) sufficient to allow a length of 3mm or 6mm (eighth or quarter-inch) tubing from the lab toolbox to pass through the gap with the window closed. Bodge together the end of the tubing and something like a Petri dish for a sipping bowl. Then see if you can inveigle the contraption onto the nest ledge leaving the tubing passing though the window into the room. 100ml syringe of fresh water, down the pipe, as seems desired. I wouldn’t try to automate it.

    How to make a duck-watering dish … is left as an exercise for the duck-waterer.

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