Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ducks aren't dumb.

Two pair of paradise ducks live in Okarito village. They are the originals or descendants of birds found as abandoned ducklings and lovingly reared by some of our "earth-mother" residents. All four are unnamed but still important sentries in the village.

Our ducks recognize faces, I'm sure, because they virtually ignore me as I potter about our garden on my daily chores. The old hen looks at me "oh him again" and carries on grazing. But strangers that pass are watched closely. If the strangers show interest then the "honk, honking" begins as the ducks show their suspicion and displeasure. Unsupervised young boys are especially a risk.

There are many other hazards. While the local canines are benign visiting mutts don't show the same respect but so far the ducks have survived. Then there are the cars, trucks, and camper vans that visit daily, some at speeds that threaten not only the ducks. One visiting boy racer in an act of defiance deliberately flattened five ducklings. A week later he flattened himself in a high-speed crash - UTU.

The four ducks tolerate each other except for the mating season when the peace is shattered by violent battles over territory. Eventually, after many fearsome feather pulling fights a truce is achieved along a boundary established around the main road intersection. Each pair nest high in rimu trees with the hen duck sitting, leaving the drake to wander aimlessly about waiting for the hen to make brief feeding visits.

Not all the ducklings survive despite our best efforts of care. Usually between two and six reach maturity. They are then shooed away by their parents and we never see them again.

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