November 6: When I discovered this duck in the Brighton millpond, I thought it was a new resident. I recorded its presence with these pictures. Then I noticed the bump on its jowl and realized it was Confidia’s duckling from Brood 4 born on May 18th. How different she looks now compared to her uniform blonde plumage in August. This shows how plumage can change significantly as ducklings become adults. Her markings are unique so she’ll be easy to identify in the future.
Young ducks earn their place in the pecking order. If they’re passive, they get pushed around by pond mates (above). This one will probably learn to defend herself as well as her mother. She’s a Buff Orpington, a breed that’s larger, stronger and taller than Mallards. In the duck/goose/swan world, size and strength are as important as attitude in determining dominance within the flock.
I’m pretty observant, but one of the reasons I make frequent trips to the Brighton millpond is that I almost always find surprises. This weekend, I discovered this large drake hovering around me. He didn’t look familiar until I noticed his foot. I’ll be damned.
This is one of Confidia‘s six ducklings from Brood 4 born just five months ago on May 18th. Look at how he’s changed! Only two months ago he was an ordinary medium dark brown and average looking fellow in his juvenile plumage. Now he’s Hollywood handsome, super-sized, and finely muscled. He’s flawless except for the evidence of his early encounter with a snapping turtle: the two mangled toes on his right foot. Oh well, if he’s asked to star in a future film, he can wear socks.
He’s probably a mix of Buff Orpington (mom) and Mallard (one of his two dads) and was fortunate to get all of the best genes from each species. I’ve named him Romeo.
Another post about duck maladies. Sorry. Since about 300 ducks inhabit the millpond, there are bound to be a few having a rough time at any particular moment. This poor chap has been poked in the eye, I think. He’s one of the six almost fully grown 15-week-old ducklings of Brood 4. The white foaming secretions are bathing the injury.
Its third eyelid (nictitating membrane) appears to be damaged. Perhaps another duck poked him with its bill or he had an encounter with a stick. Something like a small seed might be lodged under the lid. I’m not as brave as Veronica Foale from Tasmania (warning: adult language but funny!) so I won’t be wrestling with this duck. I hope it heals quickly.
Follow up: On August 12, I reported a hen hopping on one leg with a bad injury. I’m happy to report it can now put its full weight on the foot and walks with only a slight limp. If you’re squeamish, don’t click on the two images above. There is no infection, but raw bone is visible at the end of its middle toe. I cringed when I saw it. Ducks have unusual circulation in their legs and feet. Perhaps what seems similar to a “compound fracture” (open wound caused by bone protruding through the skin) can heal without infection setting in. I hope so. I think the chances of survival are good since it’s already been three weeks.
Why are goofy UglyDolls™ in this post? Because they populate a window at Lucky Duck Toys a block from the millpond. I see them each day on my downtown walks. I thought this post needed some cheer. Brip, OX, Flatter, and Cozymonster can lift any sad heart.
Confidia’s platinum blonde ducklings are having a rough time . I’ve posted how her older one (Brood 4) has a metal ring around her lower bill, but now I’m seeing a large nodule on the left jowl of her younger one from Brood 24. Wish it would stand still long enough for me to get a crisp photograph. The left photo is fuzzy and doesn’t click through to a larger one like the others. The top shot shows her with five of her six siblings so you can compare the right and left jowls. I was able to momentarily restrain her while another park visitor felt the bump. It appears to be soft rather than firm. See Comments for more info.
Urban ducks have all sorts of things with which to contend. When humans and their dogs aren’t chasing them, they still have to keep an eye out for predators in their semi-wild ponds. In addition, they are faced with litter thrown into the water or blown in during storms.
This handsome duckling from Brood 4 has a ring on its lower bill. No, it’s not a wedding ring. It’s more likely a metal auto part or industrial stamping. You cannot see it from above (lower left). How and when she acquired this accouterment is unknown. I’ve been aware of it for a week.
She’s not in distress and eats well. I’ve known this duck and her five surviving siblings (two at her right, above) since their mom, Confidia brought them to the millpond. I’ve felt the ring with my fingertips. It seems solidly in place. I hope removing it is a simple task after the complex one of catching her. If the ring was there while the duckling was growing, it might require surgery at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Stay tuned.
I’ve become fast friends with the duckling mentioned in the previous post. He knows I’ll have some duck chow for him while he’s ailing so he comes right up, lies down near me and waits. He’s one of the five ducklings from Brood 14 (above, second from right) hatched on June 17 so he’s just two months old.
I’m surprised with the speed of his healing. Just two days ago, his foot was bruised and black. Now it’s almost healed and he can put some (but not all) of his weight on it (left). He’s no longer hopping on one leg! Even though the webbing is permanently damaged, I’m pretty sure he won’t have a lifelong limp.
Maybe I’m just more aware of them this year, but it seems there are more foot and leg injuries on the ducks and geese. Most are probably caused by turtles although chases by humans, dogs and predators might also bring them on. A duckling from the very first brood is now living with permanent foot injuries (although I haven’t seen him in a month), and an adult duck hobbles on only one leg while his other one dangles. While I can’t be sure, it appears he has a broken hip but has managed to live with it for several months and looked healthy the last time I saw him.
One of the six Brood 4 ducklings (hatched May 18th) presented another mangled foot to me this week (above). When I first looked at it, I wondered how I had missed seeing his extra toe while he was growing up. Then I realized, his outer right toe was sliced in two lengthwise and half of another toe was gone. Ouch! The slice is so clean it looks like it was done with a surgical instrument, but it was probably slit by a snapping turtle’s claw. The duck is limping now, but should recover well. Never thought my walks at the millpond would morph into amateur duck podiatry …
A few clutches of ducklings might hatch before the 2012 Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament wraps up for the year, but it’s doubtful another duck will rival Confidia for enthusiasm. Her first brood was born May 18 and contained 13 (six survived to adulthood) while her current brood of ten, almost a month old now, has seven survivors (above). Her total of 23 ducklings hatched is the record for the year. The surviving 13 comprises more than 12% of the total born this year by 26 hens.
After a few days of mingling separately with the greater flock (see August 6), her first brood has reassembled. They’ve decided they like the companionship of their siblings better than joining new partnerships. All six are in the photo (above right) but one is lost in the shadows, upper right. Interestingly, Confidia’s two broods have a similar color mix that probably signals they have the same father(s): first brood had one yellow, six grays, and six mallard-colored ducklings; the second brood has one yellow, three grays, and three mallards. The pond is more colorful these days due to her efforts.
I’m probably imagining it, but the look in the above duck’s eye tells me it’s thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Brood 4 was born on May 18th at the north end of the pond. Six of the original 13 have survived. These pictures were taken on August 2nd, their first day to break their familial bonds and begin to mingle with the rest of the flock at the Main Street end of the pond. You probably remember your first day at a new school or organization. These ducks are experiencing the same thing. They are uncomfortable and aren’t sure how they fit in.
At eleven weeks old, they are all large, stout ducks of at least partial domestic stock and may be incapable of flight except for short sprints. I think they will do well in the long run, but right now they have to figure out where they can roost at night, which ducks to avoid, and which ducks are likely companions. Confidia’s brood from last year remained at the pond all winter. I imagine these will be year-round residents as well.
Covered with muck from the shallows, Confidia brought her 6 surviving ducklings to me at the north end of the pond. They are healthy and will probably all make it to adulthood if they can avoid the turtles since they are almost a month old. Two drakes are in attendance with this brood all of the time. How much added protection they provide is unknown. When food is around, they bite the kids to get them out of their way. I think they’re more interested in fathering Confidia’s next brood than guarding the youngsters.
Yesterday, I found them alone peeping like crazy in encourage mom to come home. She had left them to dally with the two drakes. This video has lots of traffic noise in the background since they are only 30 feet from a 5-lane road, but you can still hear them call out. It’s a sound to file away in your head so, when you hear peeping like this on ponds where you live, you’ll know there are ducklings looking for mom even if you can’t see them.
I hadn’t seen Confidia with her multicolored gang of eleven ducklings for ten days. Someone told me they were being fed at the back door of the Border Cantina restaurant. They finally returned on June 8th with seven remaining ducklings. It’s interesting that she’s lost three of the gray ones and three of the standard mallards, but the most visible duckling, the yellow one, is doing fine. Even with the protection of the hen and the two drakes who appear to be very attentive, she’s lost almost half of her brood. I imagine the one with the injured leg is among them.
I took many photographs of the group as they ate and then rested at the shoreline. They are good family portraits, but I thought it was overkill to place all of them large enough to view in this post. Click the thumbnails to see the larger versions.
On the following night, the family returned but only six ducklings were in tow (below).
It’s been decades since I’ve read textbooks about dominant and recessive genes. The years have taken their toll on my understanding. Maybe a reader will explain it to me again. This past week has made me realize this particular hen has been a star of this blog without me realizing it. So I’m naming her to make it easier for me to write about her. A blog “tag” now compiles posts of her life on the pond. I’m not a fan of naming millpond ducks. It makes them seem more like pets than wild beasts, but it helps me quickly describe them and avoid writing, “the tan duck that lives in the north end of the millpond that started with a brood of 13.” Even though I’ve done it, I prefer names that aren’t cute. Cute names diminish the animals’ stature each time they’re uttered.
Meet Confidia. I’ve been calling her that to myself since last autumn because she’s so confident as a mother. Except for her disheveled appearance after her late brood in 2011, she handles mothering with ease. I’ve been photographing her for three years but she might have been hatching broods much longer than that. She’s a pitbull with feathers: stout with a muscular neck, strong bill and upright posture. No other duck on the pond has her carriage. I think she’s of Buff Orpington stock, but a duck expert could convince me otherwise.
She produces ducklings with diverse markings while most hens’ ducklings look identical and are difficult to tell apart. Besides their various colors, facial markings vary from chick to chick. These close ups confirm it. I’m sure it’s genetics, that her own genes play second fiddle to those of her mates. I can’t explain it beyond that. Maybe that’s enough.
Notes about her current brood
One little guy (pictured) has injured his right leg and can’t put weight on it. He hops, tumbles, and then rests. He still looks healthy but his long-term survival is in question. The yellow duckling seems passive and smaller (see above pictures). It might not be getting its share of nutrition. Time will tell for these tykes.
Five minutes after this family of ducks bounded out of the pond following a violent attack (a hungry turtle?), mom gathered the troupe at the north end of the Brighton millpond. All ducklings and toes were accounted for! Since I last photographed this family and announced it as the front runner in the 2012 Brighton Millpond Fertility Tournament, two of the 13 ducklings have vanished. While it’s sad, it’s expected. Young ducklings are vulnerable to predators, cold nights, humans, and health issues. Careful parenting is one factor in raising ducklings to adulthood. Another is luck. This hen has been a contender in ALL THREE YEARS of the tournament and is a devoted mom. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
Although she did her best, the duck with 11 ducklings is now in second place. Farther north, a hen has introduced her brood of 13 ducklings to park visitors. They are only 1-2 days old and a fine assortment of colors.
I haven’t researched it, but I think broods can have different fathers. This hen associates with both a Mallard and a Buff Orpington drake (right). There are six gray ducklings (probably Buffs like the drake and mom) and six with typical dark mallard traits. The bright yellow duckling? Perhaps there was a fling with a millpond Pekin.
Their mom is a stocky, veteran millpond mom. She produced 2011′s last brood of the season on September 1st. That duckling quartet were as colorful as this batch. All of them thrived to adulthood because of their mom’s skills.
Blonde Bombshell #2 was one of them. She’s been missing for five days. She’s probably nesting since her male partner is loitering near The Wooden Spoon at the north end. Within a month, I suspect her ducklings will join their grandmother’s troupe for a three-generation family reunion.
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Douglas Peterson Brighton, Michigan Artist • Designer
Writer • Illustrator
You'll find information about the resident ducks, geese, swans, and critters who reside in the Brighton, Michigan mill pond. I slip in art and poetry, but the prime focus is my photos of wildlife and plants.
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