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May 2024
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Muscovy Survival
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US
Posted by: Ken @ 11:44 am

It is hot now in South Florida. Even early in the morning, the combination of heat, humidity and mosquitoes does not encourage birding or other outdoor pursuits. We will now retreat to Illinois, where the daily high temperatures are about the same as Florida’s lows.

Our wild birds are pretty quiet now, having raised their young. The Mockingbirds sing infrequently, and many species are undergoing molt, which saps their energy. My attention turns to the naturalized Muscovy Ducks that inhabit our lake.

Hen with nine ducklings on May 18, 2008

After two seasons that were marked by die-offs, territorial squabbling, and infanticide that resulted in greatly reduced numbers of Muscovy Ducks on our lake, it appears that we are now witnessing a population boom. The drakes seem to have settled down and accepted a certain pecking order and rights over specific land areas and hens. The drakes have not shown any more unusual aggression towards the ducklings. “Old Whitey” now rules our yard and probably sired the youngsters that have hatched out on our property.

On May 18 of this year, I photographed a hen with a brood of 9 ducklings that she had been incubating under the cocoplum shrub in our back yard. One of the chicks was all yellow. That same day, I saw a large fish surface as if to attack one of them, but all the ducklings gathered in a tight group around their mother, and paddled safely away. (A couple of years earlier, a neighborhood child and I saw a chick disappear when a Largemouth Bass took it in one gulp, right before our eyes.)

The same nine ducklings, photographed exactly 2 months later, on July 18:

All these nine ducklings have survived the past two months, and are now nearly as large as the adults. The yellow one is now mostly white, and is the one closest to the camera. All nine can be seen in this photo– the additional birds are a Rock Pigeon and four adult Muscovy Ducks that are in and near the water, behind the ducklings. Their survival to this age is quite unusual, as there has been nearly 100% mortality up to now. Also unusual is the fact that all nine have stayed together after reaching this size. Perhaps this has helped them to escape predators.

Now a different hen has a new brood of 10 ducklings that hatched out around July 14. There are three yellow chicks in this family. We will try to keep track of these as well.

You know it is very hot when… this White Ibis seeks the shade of our little mango tree.

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