Quacking Rites of Spring

mallard_glam

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/lifehistory

They’re back! And when they arrive, it’s with a big splash!

Who is “They”?

One of the true and delightful rites of early spring in my life is the arrival of the male and female ducks who unfailingly land and plop down in the water-filled cover of our neighbor’s above-ground pool. It’s going on 10 years that I’ve “experienced” them. Sadly, the average lifespan of a duck is less than 10 years, so is our time together nearing an end? Or might one of the many offspring who have sprung here pick up where his or her parents left off.

Stop! These lovely creatures have just arrived and already I am focusing on their departure when there is another wonderful beginning right in front of me.

Their Story

Every year the ducks arrive soon after the last snow and thus the spring saga begins. They spend some time swimming in the pool cover, and disappear at times, usually evenings, when together they locate the best spot for Mama to lay her eggs and keep them warm. Unlike some other avian species, only the mother is allowed to sit on the eggs while Papa guards the nest and forages for food.

It’s interesting how she forms her nest. It begins as a 1-to-6-inch bowl-like depression in soft ground into which she plops, and once plopped, that’s where she stays. Instead of bringing materials to the nest, she reaches for brush and vegetation from her perch to both cushion the nest and hide it from view.  Once she lays her eggs, she plucks the soft, downy feathers from her breast to cover and insulate them. Discretion and safety is the watch word for this entire process and believe it or not, in the 10 years I’ve been observing this springtime ritual, only once have I seen Mama with her ducklings waddling behind her.

As I wrote this little piece and did some additional research on one of my favorite wildlife species, I learned some interesting facts about ducks.

  • Although they are “monogamous,” males are known to have “dalliances” with other female ducks.
  • When their wings flap like crazy, be aware they can actually propel their owners up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Quacking? Only females quack; makes merely make a grunting, guttural sound.
  • When breeding season is over, ducks shed their feathers and are unable to fly for 3—4 weeks, a highly helpless time for them.
  • Ducks have a varied diet. They don’t dive in water, but will eat bugs and plants along the surface. They otherwise forage for seeds, worms, snails, etc.

Like all nature’s creatures, ducks have their own special stories to tell, and when they do, they put a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Happy Spring!

Credits:

All About Birds: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Hobby Farms: What is the Average Life Span of a Duck?

 

Nick DiChario

Reader, writer, life-long mistake-maker

Judith Shenouda

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