Grief in Ducks

Posted by Jason Harley on

This is one of those blog posts that needs to be written, but do not want to write it. Recently my drake was taken by a predator, likely protecting his mate. Awakened the next morning by what I can only describe as a 'screaming duck' as I had never heard Martha Kentt quack like that before. 

She was alone at their door to the shed. Quacking like I had never heard her quack before. It probably never helped her emotional state to have young pup (an American Shepherd) come barrelling at her, chasing her into the pond for safety. And that's what I thought the pond was for them on nights they decided not to come inside; safety. They had a few spots where they would spend the night, nestled under a tree on the private pond shoreline. The night before I had tried to call them in, but as they often do in the heat of summer, went right for the pond.

They had established a habit of coming in every 2nd night to visit the buffet I suppose. This has been the case multiple summers now with no issues. Until 3 nights ago. A night I wish I could have forced them inside somehow. Or worked harder to entice them. But there were never issues before.

I did some searching for our drake injured, or at least a pile feathers but only found some of hers in a corner of the pond. There are coyotes in the area, and to see a few of her feathers in the water under that tree paints the picture to me that the male was taken there. She was likely closest to the water, and escaped in a flurry of feathers. There were none of his feathers to be seen there. He was probably dead instantly after a coyote bite to the neck. Martha now completely avoids that entire end of the pond. And even worse, she cries for him constantly.

She goes out to shore or the middle of the pond, and quacks incessantly. I didn't know she could quack so loud. It literally breaks my heart. So during this time, I have been visiting her a lot more and trying to comfort her. Strangely, it seems to help. She visibly appreciates the company and treats. I have never been able to pet her or pick her up, but she is getting much physically closer to me than when Johnathan was still with us. So it is fascinating to see how emotional ducks are, and how a little bit of human compassion can actually have a positive impact on them. If she were my only duck, I don't know what I would do. Nobody wants to hear a sad, lonely widow duck crying all day.

Luckily, eggs of this mating pair were hatched June 7th, 2022 and 3 were kept! The drake Johnathan would pick at them and forced me to keep their children penned into a corner of their shed for protection. Since he was lost, I have been letting them wander the entire shed freely (and share the space with their Mother) for the past 2 nights. They seem to be sharing the space peacefully.

While Martha is clearly missing her mate and scared of one side of the pond now, it is my hope that she will find comfort in her family. Prior to their eggs being hatched, John and Martha had the pond as a paradise to themselves (and the migrating Geese in the spring).

RIP Johnathan. 


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