A few weeks ago, I was startled to find my female Mandarin, Jackie, had started laying eggs. This is abnormal behavior for wild ducks. Yesterday when I was tending all 7 birds (2 pair of Mandarin and one male and 2 female Wood ducks), I discovered she had begun to sit on her clutch. The clutch size was 16 the day before. I fear she may be doing all this for naught, due to the fact the weather has been subfreezing most days since she started to lay. But stranger things have happened in my duck world. So we’ll see. The male in the picture above is her mate, Jack. He is on guard duty until she stops sitting or the eggs hatch and the ducklings make their jump to the ground.
There is a twist to the story as it seems. Jack and Jackie have a male offspring. After a trade of last Spring’s ducklings, I brought home a nonrelated female. Junior’s new bride is Joy. She and Junior were acting very peculiar as they both perched atop another nesting box nearby. I was bewildered at their conduct. They were both using aggressive gestures in the direction of Jack. Joy was making excessively loud chirping noises while she thrust her bill and neck downward showing her displeasure. Junior’s chest bulged out with puffed out pride while he “burped” and whistled in disdain. I was perplexed. Neither Joy nor Junior had been near the nest box that I had ever witnessed.
Could it be I simply had missed Joy laying eggs in the same nest? I don’t think so because I’m detailed in observing when it comes to my ducks. I knew Jackie was the one laying because I observed the fullness of her abdomen every day since the first day she started laying. I wasn’t confused about which hen was which because Joy wears a bracelet put on by her previous owner when I made the trade so I wouldn’t confuse her with Jackie. Joy also is a juvenile, so it is highly unlikely she would lay so early in winter. I still have no idea what spurred Jackie on to laying this early, much less in such frigid weather.
The chaos of the Mandarins set into motion cries of exacerbation from the Wood ducks. Teak (the male) sounds like a dog’s squeaky toy. He was thrusting out his bill and neck and loudly chiming in along with Holly and Rose the two females. Ducks began to fly here and there all over the aviary. While Jack tried to hold steady at his post, Junior and Joy buzzed him in flight to chase him away several times.
I managed to refill water and food containers with fresh while all this was happening. There were remnants of watermelon rind from the day before. They had eaten the personal size melon in one day. Perhaps Teak thought I might be bringing another such winter luxury (they are expensive in winter). Yet they are too expensive for every day. So I alternate with wild bird seed, romaine lettuce, blueberries, worms, and mealworms. By far melons are the biggest hit. I’ll never be sure which was the source of the malady. The Wood ducks can’t tell me although sometimes I’m remarkably attuned to their needs by their actions. With the confusion however I was unable to tell.
I was ill prepared to video this mayhem. They were moving much to fast for film and my movie producing ability.
Teak, Holly and Rose Wood:
Jack and Jackie Mandarin:
Junior and Joy Mandarin: (Flanking the Wood ducks in the center)
Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Mandarin Mayhem.
© copyright Phyllis Rogers 1/11/18