Tuesday: Duck report

Last week we stopped giving food to the ducks, and they’ve gradually disappeared from the pond. It was a hard decision, but I didn’t want ducks hanging around a frozen pond all winter, begging for handouts. (My theory is that they will migrate rather than find some other place in our area, but I may be wrong.) Further, I don’t want to have to deal with more than three broods of ducklings next spring, though given that nearly thirty of them fledged this year, lots may return to nest. We’ll see.

The last few days there have been only a handful of ducks at Botany Pond, and today, with temperatures below freezing and the pond starting to freeze over, we have only two cold mallards huddled on the bank. It’s sad to see, but I hope and trust that they, too, will find more salubrious climes. Here they are, keeping warm:

May fair winds guide you to the Mississippi Flyway, O ducks!


  1. JezGrove
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Tough love – but it’s probably for the best. Is there an optimum time at which to stop feeding ducks before the winter sets in?

  2. Nicholas K.
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I hope they’ll get the message and move on!

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    We still have some ducks here in the city and lots of Canada geese. It has been cold enough twice to ice up some of the water but only for a short time. I do not see how all these geese live on the half dead winter grass but they do. They may be flying out to some fields and then returning to the ponds.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    They bid fair to bid adieu.

  5. Simon Hayward
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure whether they totally move out of the Chicago area in winter. We only see them on the pond at home when there is open water (Canada geese in contrast will stand on the ice in groups, perhaps big enough, at least en masse, to resist coyote predation). However, even in mid winter I occasionally have to stop to let a large group of mallards cross the road, in the same place they cross in the summer, having flown in from who knows where. So they seem to be roosting in the same place all winter and are back on the water usually the day any significant space thaws out. I have no clue where they go, the only obvious open water in easy flying distance would be Lake Michigan, at least in really cold spells. Perhaps there are bits of river edges that are open for feeding.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 10, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think they find open water in some rivers.

  6. rickflick
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    It may be a worry to think the ducks depend on being fed at Botany Pond, but the owner of a bird supply store told me that people could stop feeding wild birds and it would make no difference. They are perfectly capable of fending for themselves. She said the only reason to feed them is to get them in close where you can observe and enjoy them.
    I would also point out that ducks in the wild fly at 40 to 60 mph and can sustain that for many hours before settling. They can be hundreds of miles south in a day. That means, Botany Pond is a welcome refuge, but something they don’t actually depend on. So, I wouldn’t be concerned about the ducks.

    • boudiccadylis
      Posted December 11, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      And you’re not the only source for food.

  7. Posted December 10, 2019 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. It’s surely been an educational adventure, observing and learning about these beautiful creatures.

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