Two newly dumped ducks have arrived at the Brighton millpond (above). I’ve named them Lewis and Clark, but I can’t tell you which is which yet. Eventually, I’ll figure it out.
I met the previous owner on the day he dumped them. He told me they were six month old Pekin drakes that had been so brutal in their mating with his female Pekins he had to remove them from his premises. He felt the millpond would be a great place for them to live. I pointed out he had now brought his problem to the millpond’s females that were already subjected to an overabundance of drakes. He hadn’t thought about that before releasing them. I introduced him to the resident ducks and he left with a better understanding of how dumping ducks is unwise. But, alas, it was too late to catch the newcomers.
Lewis and Clark are beautiful birds that have received excellent care during their early life. On the night they arrived (left), they huddled together in the water unsure of how they fit into the waterfowl society already in residence. This is a typical response. Each pond has its own social structure.
There are sub-flocks, dominance hierarchies, stable territories, and other behavioral conventions. Through trial and error, newbies determine how they can survive. Most of the time, it’s a fairly smooth transition taking only a few days. But when Jemima and Jiminy arrived, MooseTracks kept Jiminy cornered below the dam for his first two weeks. Tiny Dumpling bamboozled the six larger dumped ducks at the north end of the pond last fall. He wouldn’t let them go near the water for ten days until the new Rouen drake, the powerful Smith, informed Dumpling he was no longer in charge.
On the first night Lewis and Clark (green dot, below) arrived, they attempted to befriend members of the Buda Bunch (magenta) and Mrs PomPom’s three ducklings (yellow). They were rebuffed by Buda who was very protective of Mrs PomPom and her brood.
By their second full day, however, they discovered the charming and irresistible Jemima with her two feckless suitors, Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt (below).
From that point on, they have been making frequent mating runs to attack Jemima while her two boyfriends stand by helplessly jabbering (below).
The violence of duck mating has been a frequent topic on this blog. The attics of Lewis and Clark (one doing a victory dance after mating, right) has already had an impact on Jemima and her suitors. They are stressed each time the new drakes swim toward them, Jemima has new wounds on her neck from mating (below), and the trio has changed their roosting locations to avoid the brutes (below right).
This illustrates the impact new animals have when thrust into an environment. It happens in every public park. At Kensington Metropark, the nature center’s staff have told me how people often drop off raccoons, squirrels, and other wildlife trapped on their properties without realizing they are influencing the park’s natural balance of wildlife-to-food-resources as well as causing friction between the established wildlife residents and the newcomers.
I’ve said it often but need to restate it:
It is against the law to abandon pets at the Brighton millpond. Abandoning any animal within the city limits without providing for its care and feeding is punishable with a hefty fine.
People think they are doing their unwanted pet a favor; that they will “make friends” and lead a good life in the beautiful environment. They don’t realize an urban pond holds dangers that may lead to their previously loved pet meeting a violent and painful death. It might be in the mouth of predator or against the bumper of a speeding vehicle. Since an informal group brings food in the depth of winter, starvation at our millpond is rare, but domestic ducks cannot adequately forage for themselves.
Before purchasing a duck as a pet, owners need to evaluate whether they have the shelter, financial resources, and time to provide it with the care it requires. Ducks merely thrown into a backyard pond or a yard with no water feature or shelter will soon meet their demise through predation in suburban or rural areas.
People who learn too late the responsibilities of owning a duck or a small flock end up foisting their responsibilities onto others when they release them in public spaces. It also needs be noted the city does not provide any care. Many people assume the city or its public safety officers will run to rescue injured or sick animals. Nope. They cannot afford to provide such services. Abandoned pets are at the mercy of the elements and sometimes cruel or ignorant park visitors including their dogs. That’s the reality.