July 17th, 2012 permalink
Do you remember your first day at Kindergarten or your first dance or first AA meeting? Well, that’s what this duckling is experiencing in these photos taken on July 11 (right) and July 12 (top). He (or she) has left the comfort of his four compadres and has ventured into to the south end of the Brighton millpond alone to join the flock of adult ducks.
Born May 2nd and the lone survivor of Brood 2, it hasn’t started interacting with other ducks, but it’s standing its ground. It’s wandered up to me a few times for a handful of duck chow and is faring well. Abandoned when only two weeks old, it’s gratifying to see it make the transition and its coloring makes it possible for me to track the progress it makes in the coming months. I see its mom occasionally. I don’t think she’s nested again but she is accompanied by two drakes. This duckling’s childhood buddies from Brood 1 haven’t been seen yet. Since one has a damaged foot, I’m sure I’ll notice it among the adult ducks soon.
June 25th, 2012 permalink
At eight weeks old, ducklings from Broods #1 and #2 are almost fully grown. Within a week or two, they will begin to fly. This photo was taken last night near the north end of the pond. With the inky water underneath them, they look like a fine 16th Century Flemish painting to me or a detailed engraving that’s been hand colored. Considering they have raised themselves for more than five weeks, they look amazingly healthy and except for the one damaged foot due to a bout with a turtle, they look no worse for wear. In fact, they couldn’t be more beautiful and that just might be a testimonial for duck chow since they’ve eaten quite a lot of it.
June 11th, 2012 permalink
I’ve commented before that ducks will wait patiently for food. Not these guys. They were like puppies next to the dinner table watching every move I made. As my hand brought them cracked corn and duck chow, they would jump up to reach it before their siblings could. Three of them eat out of my hand but the other two gladly stay in the background eating all of the food the more aggressive ones throw out of my palm as they devour it. There’s not a hint of a pecking order or squabbles among them yet. They look scruffy with adult feathers growing in while their baby fuzz is falling out. They’re healthy looking and lots of fun to be around although I only see them a couple of times a week now. Not sure where they go on the other days.
June 4th, 2012 permalink
The combined Brood1 and Brood2 have had a tough time in their first month of life. Of the original 13, only five are still alive. That’s actually impressive considering they’ve had no adult for protection or direction in finding food or safe places to rest at night. Their losses have taught them to stick close together which increases their chances of survival. You’ll see more about them as events happen in their lives.
They have some battle scars. Early in life, one of them was probably bitten on its head. I noticed its left eyestripe had a flaw when it was young (see foreground duck in this photo). As it’s lost its baby fuzz, an indentation in the structure of its skull is more evident. The injury doesn’t seem to impair the duck in any way.
Sometime between May 29 (above, left) and June 3 (above, right), one duckling had the webbing on its left foot shredded. It was probably an encounter with the claws on a snapping turtle. The webbing will never heal and will reduce the duck’s paddling speed, but he’ll learn to compensate. Otherwise, he’s as fit as his siblings and his adopted brother, the darker duckling, the sole survivor of four in Brood2. Note how that duck is starting to develop a white bib like its mother.
May 23rd, 2012 permalink
The eight ducklings that are raising themselves after being abandoned at 2-3 days old show how ducklings cuddle up to stay warm and happy without their mom to protect them. This group is the combination of two abandoned broods, one of 7 ducklings (originally 9) and the other one of 1 (originally 4).
First they amass in no particular order (top) but usually touching the sides of the other ducklings. Eventually, one of the brood with pile on top (above left) and sink down into the others. Then another one (above right) will do the same thing. Pretty soon, one of the ducklings ends up being in the center with the rest of the group closely packed around it with all tails pointing outward.
Even when the initial goal is just to sit and stare into the pond (above left), ducklings position themselves to touch their neighbors within a very short time. When they want to sleep, one will almost always end up in the center with the rest of them touching it with their chests and their butts pointing outward (above right).
It makes perfect sense, too. Their chests and faces are typically light-colored while their tails and backs are dark. They are less visible to predators like owls and raccoons in this configuration. None of these photos show it, but once the babes tuck their bills under their wings to sleep, they are even less visible. The lighter colored markings on their rear flanks help break up the dark mass so they are better camouflaged.
May 16th, 2012 permalink
Five days ago, I reported the brood of nine abandoned ducklings had been reduced to seven. I’m happy to report the brood is thriving and all of the little ones appear healthy. The same can’t be said for the white bibbed hen’s ducklings first mentioned two weeks ago. Their numbers have dwindled from four down to two. Their mom has left them in the care of the seven other abandoned chicks (above and below). She’s been swept her off her webbed feet by two handsome drakes and remains nearby but pays no attention to her little ones.
Last evening, I was telling park visitors about these nine ducklings and had my back to them as they left shore for an evening paddle. I heard a violent splash, turned around, and only eight ducklings remained. The survivors darted toward shore and huddled together (below) following the attack of a snapping turtle or large bass. That’s how quickly life ends for ducklings. One minute here, the next, gone. It was one of the two white-bibbed hen’s chicks.
May 16th, 2012 permalink
The pecking order isn’t limited to chickens. Many bird species use it to establish their dominance hierarchy. Millpond ducks take jabs at each other continously as I’ve explained before.
Why do they do it? Once the pecking order is established through minor scrimmages, it reduces the chance of intense conflicts that require expenditures of far more energy and might risk war wounds. A higher ranked duck can signal his intentions to underlings by subtle visual cues — the lowering of its head or a couple of steps forward. Ducks of lesser stature get the message and get out of striking range. Ducks in the bottom rung spend a lot of time dodging the others or waiting for their turn to eat.
Ducklings start pecking at each other as soon as they start foraging for food. Adult ducks often take swipes at them for minor transgressions. I’ve seen drakes pick up youngsters and toss them a foot or more away. Above, mom bites the rump of one of her own chicks to get him moving.
May 11th, 2012 permalink
Yesterday’s post contained two photographs taken on May 6th of the season’s second brood of ducklings. I hadn’t noticed it when I took those photos, but this duckling was smaller and his posture was different than the others. In the larger image he is the darkest duckling on the far left. In the other image, he’s in the center. Note how his head is resting on his shoulders and his body is rounder than the others.
By May 9th, when these two pictures were taken, he was two-thirds the size of his siblings, but he had a chipper, quick step when he ran around my feet looking for tidbits to eat. Atypically, he didn’t follow his nest mates around, and let me get very close to take the top picture. The way his head rested on his shoulders reminded me of the last days for SweetPea’s yellow duckling in August, 2010. Sadly, these photos were taken on the last night of his life. He was missing on May 10th.
May 10th, 2012 permalink
Remember in early elementary school how you’d be asked to select “which one is different” on a page of similar things? That’s your assignment again today. There’s only one restriction: ignore color variations. Click the images to see them larger.
Let’s face it. Most ducks look alike and I’m always trying to figure out ways I can tell one from another. Unless they are obviously different because of color markings, I look for subtle differences and that’s what I’m asking you to do now. I’ll post the answer tomorrow, but don’t worry. You won’t be graded.
May 3rd, 2012 permalink
The 2012 Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament has begun! Canada Geese aren’t part of the tournament because of creching, but they are exofficio participants due to their abundance on the millpond. Above, one of five week old goslings peeks out to see why my camera’s flash is lighting up the night. Eventually, all of the goslings left the warmth of mom’s belly to meet me. On another night (below left), mom and dad were teaching their brood to beg park visitors for food. They’ll need all they can get. They grow really fast and will reach the weight of their parents (up to 18 pounds) by the end of summer.
I saw the very first ducklings (day-old) last Sunday night, but it was near dark and they were in the distance so I couldn’t count their numbers. There were 8-10, I think. Below might be that mother. I photographed her the next night during a light rain. I didn’t disturb her so I still couldn’t get a count, but the spread of her wings indicates she has a sizable number under her. Note how nicely she blends in with her environment. The hens cryptic color and markings help protect her while she’s nesting and guarding her young.
Farther north on the pond, a dark bird of unknown species with a white bib and vivid teal green wing patch gave birth to four tykes within the past 24 hours (below). They are tiny balls of fuzz. She let me come close because she recognizes me from winter feedings.
All four of her prodigy are darkly marked like she is although her mate for the summer is a typically marked mallard. There are only about four white-bibbed ducks on the pond so these might add to their numbers.
Perhaps their dark coloration will help them stay invisible to predators on land. In the water, they will be just as endangered as lighter ducklings. Bass and turtles will see them. Mortality of ducklings during the first two weeks of their lives is very high. It’s reasonable to expect half of the ducklings pictured in this post to disappear in their first 14 days.
What surprises me about these early ducklings is that their moms started nesting about April first. That means they kept their eggs warm through nighttime temperatures below 20 degrees! That’s quite a feat. Stay tuned. The tournament is just getting started. There will be lots of entries from now until at least early August.
May 1st, 2012 permalink
||Dark duck of undetermined species with white bib
||Typical Mallard present along with a Buff Orpington
||Stillwater Bay (spotted in distance at dusk)
||May 2 behind Fire Station
||4 verified, May 2
May 10: First fatality; weak duckling missing. Three remain.
May 12: Another duckling lost, hen pecks at Brood 1 chicks while feeding.
May 14: Hen abandons remaining two remaining ducklings but seen nearby with the two males.
May 15: The two ducklings bond with remaining seven from Brood 1
May 15: In my presence, the nine ducklings take evening swim, loud splash heard, one of the two ducklings killed by turtle (probably). Only one remains in the custody of the seven from Brood 1.
Posts including this brood:
05/03/12 :: Playing peek-a-boo with babies
05/16/12 :: Who pecks who and why?
06/24/12 :: The early broods are almost fully grown