2017-06-15 / Pets

New Acorn correspondent snoops the daffy world of ducks

Four-legged reporter debuts
By Scooter the Squirrel
Special to The Acorn

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS—This week, Scooter the Squirrel meets up with a few of his quacky friends. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS—This week, Scooter the Squirrel meets up with a few of his quacky friends. I might be a squirrel, but I’m a very observant one. Not only do I notice all the wonderful flora and fauna in these fabulous local counties, I also communicate with fellow critters, big and small.

Just the other day, for example, I met two quacks in my neighborhood. They were a pair of ducks, just standing there on the road--not swimming in the pool like two of them did last year.

The male was stunningly bedecked with a shimmering emerald-green head, bright yellow bill and a striking white neck band.

He had an alternative light- and dark-gray flanked body and a cute black tail-twirl, which all made it obvious to me that he was of the Mallard persuasion of quacker.

In stark contrast, the female was an overall mottled brown- ish color, with one bright spot—a violet- blue patch of feathers bordered by black and white.

I didn’t want to speculate about the bright patch of plumage on her wings, but my gaze prompted her to explain that certain birds, including many ducks, she said, have this strip of metallic sheen on their secondary flight feathers, which is called the speculum.

I couldn’t help but note that despite this bright patch, all in all the female’s humble brown color was a great way that Mother Nature seemed to bestow on her as protection during nesting season so she wouldn’t stand out much at all.

As for the speculums, which I found out was also present on the male, are basically there for signaling between birds in the air, aiding in flocking behavior. Who knew? In any case, when I asked them why they were just standing there, they said they were making a brief stopover on their way to check out the Rancho Park Duck Pond in Simi Valley, which had had a major overhaul last year. They had heard the lovely new pond was filled with other Mallards as well as Chinese geese and all sorts of water fowl.

As the conversation progressed,

I got around to asking if the couple was an “item.” The male—also called a drake in human language—flapped his wings proudly and announced they had been together for quite some time, as many ducks are monogamous, he informed me.

A very boastful fellow indeed, he went on to ask me if I knew that Mallards are the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds.

“ I did not know that,” I replied, all the while trying to keep a smirk off my face because I couldn’t help noticing that instead of quacking, the drake actually made quiet rasping sounds, unlike the female who’s apparently the only real “quacker” in duck families.

Also during this conversation, they mentioned several other places local residents might find ducks. But they cautioned duck-lovers not to bring bread to feed them as it’s unhealthy—plus, they prefer cracked corn, oats and other grains that humans can buy at feed stores.

Here’s a short list of local places they told me other quacks can be spotted: Conejo Creek Park North, 1379 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks; Lake Lindero, Agoura Hills; Simi Valley at 1765 Royal Ave. at Erringer Road; Moorpark along the arroyo; and Oak Park Community Center and Gardens, 1000 Kanan Road.

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