Sunday: Duck report

My reserve of readers’ wildlife photos is rather low (send them in, please), and so today I’m featuring a Duck Update, with pictures taken September 6 and 7.

Only a few ducks remain.  Honey and her huge drake swain Ritz come and go, but have been here for the past three days. Daphne is here, but six of her ducklings have fledged, leaving four, who still hang around together. I haven’t seen Anna, but there is an occasional offspring duck that I don’t recognize.

Finally, there appears to be an injured or malformed hen that we call Wounded Warrior, who showed up about ten days ago. “WW” walks, flies, and eats well, but when in the water she swims by frantically paddlewheeling her legs, occasionally lifting her breast out of the water. There also appears to be some disturbed feathers on her breast. I’m not sure if she’s injured or what, but she doesn’t like to go into the water, perhaps because swimming is difficult and/or painful. I feed her on the bank or on the beach, as she needs water to wash down her food. And, of course, since she’s an oddball, all the other ducks chase her.

Here you can see her difficulty with swimming:

And a short comparison with another hen, filmed on September 3 by our Secret Duck Farmer:

It breaks my heart to see this, but WW is getting extra food and maybe some rehab in the future.

Here she is on the bank. Notice the ruffling on the breast. It may be just molting, but perhaps there’s a larger problem.

Because Wounded Warrior doesn’t like to go in the water, where she gets chased by other ducks, she often washes down her food with the nearest water, often a mud puddle. You can see her bill is muddy from doing that. This also saddens me, but ducks don’t seem to mind drinking muddy water.

Daphne is still here, and almost finished with her molt. Her flight feathers are nearly regrown, and she can fly, but they need to be a bit longer before she undertakes any migrations. The first photo shows Daphne; the second one of her offspring. The babies are fully feathered and ready to go, while Daphne needs to grow those primaries:

Meanwhile, Honey and Ritz, the Love Ducks, carry on their courtship. They’re always together, though they do leave the pond (jointly) for a couple of days at a time. Last year Honey left for good on October 15, so we may have her for a while, but she also bred a bit early this year.

Here’s the loving couple photographed yesterday:

And a few seconds later, with Honey going to sleep (note that she’s standing on one leg):

What a handsome pair! Like James Pond, her former consort, Ritz is gentle and a bit timid, but very solicitous of Honey, allowing her to eat first.

Yesterday I saw something I hadn’t seen before: courtship behavior in my mallards. Here Ritz and Honey appear to be performing some head-bobbing ritual. Remember that ducks can see 360 degrees around them since they have lateral eye placement. Look how much larger he is!

And the splendid drake Ritz. His head appears to be getting a bit greener, suggesting that some of his substandard coloration might have been due to a molt.

10 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Random associative comment:

    The company Weight Watchers changed their name to WW. Just sayin’.

    Beautiful ducks!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    … but ducks don’t seem to mind drinking muddy water.

    Wonder if Wounded Warrior is a Lou Rawls fan.

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I’m glad that you’re there to provide food and comfort to Wounded Warrior. Who knows what might become of her otherwise?

    • Posted September 8, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I know but winter is coming and if she doesn’t leave we’ll have to find refuge for her.

  4. rickflick
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Glad to see Ritz head getting greener. His hood might come to match his amazing blue door panels.

  5. samoffat@28gmailcom
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you could find a bird expert from some animal hospital center, or Audubon might know of someone who could come and watch her and diagnose, which would be the least traumatic for her, or take her to a bird vet. It could be congenital or might be a treatable injury of some sort. She may not be strong enough to migrate successfully?

  6. Posted September 8, 2019 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I wonder of the Wounded Warrior has problems with its air sacs.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 8, 2019 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful report, but it’s so sad reading about Wounded Warrior. It makes me want to hug her, even though I know that would be completely unhelpful. However, I know you’ll get her sorted with some experts if need be, and that helps me feel a little better.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted September 9, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    What is the average success rate of a mallard hen (what % of their ducklings make it to fly off on their own)? Surely a lot less than the near-1.000 @ Botany Pond.

    And given that, do drakes somehow sense batting averages and might that be how Honey managed to score Frank?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 9, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Oops, I meant Ritz, not Frank.


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