Wild Ducks and Tame Goose Compete in Our Yard
by Keith Hackland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
published April 2017
Everyone who feeds birds has great stories.
The best stories are about incidents that occur
when one least expects it, like this morning . . .
I was going about the yard routine with our
chickens, goose, and vegetable garden on a
warm spring morning, when I felt as if I was
being watched, causing me to look up. There,
about ten yards from me was a pair of Black bellied
Whistling-ducks. I walked closer to
about five yards, and they held their position.
These great lookers have coral bills and legs,
black bellies, rufous red all over, and big eyes.
They are ducks, but they behave like geese. We
see them in the daytime, but they also forage at
night, often flying miles to flooded fields and
shallow ponds. During the night time we often
hear them whistle as they fly overhead, invisible
against the dark sky, and my wife Audrey
says "I hear Whistling-ducks." She says this
because my hearing is poor and she wants me
to enjoy them as she does.
These two ducks in our yard stared at me,
like my cat Gordon Gray stares at me when he
wants something, but does not know the right
word for it.
I continued with my chores, watering the garden,
pretending not to notice them. The ducks
were patient with this dumb human (me), and
after glancing at each other they figured out a
new way to communicate with me. I had a good
idea what they probably wanted, but thought it
would be interesting to watch them longer. One
duck jumped up on the empty bird feed table
where we pile cracked corn and sorghum for
the doves, black birds and sparrows. The duck
scanned the empty table, then looked directly
at me, and repeated the process several times.
The words were crystal clear,
"Hey, where is the duck food, we're starving.
Please refill the table."
"Okay," I said, "I get it." Returning
with a pitcher full of feed the two
ducks watched from a distance. I
filled the table with feed, and retired
to the house to pick up my
camera. When I returned outside
here were the ducks both on the
table. While one kept watch, the
other fed on the grain. Then they
switched off so the guard could
eat. As they felt more comfortable,
both ate together. After taking
some good photos I resumed
watering the garden.
as most Valley residents know, invade
suburbia in spring and summer,
seeking holes in mature Valley Ash trees
where several females share a nest. They all
lay eggs and take turns incubating them. As
the young hatch in successive waves every few
days, the females in turn take off with a group
of newly hatched ducklings. Their cute babies
are yellow, camouflaged with blue-black
stripes and purple bills.
Having eaten their fill, the two yard ducks
dropped back to the ground and sauntered over
to the goose water tub, waiting as it filled for
the chance to take a drink. About this time I
glimpsed a good sized bird fly in and sit on the
peak of the goose pen, where the goose waited
patiently for release. I looked up and saw that it
was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. These fast hawks
prey, like Cooper's Hawk, on birds and to them
a bird feeder is a bird buffet for their next meal.
As I looked up, it caught sight of me, and flew
off again, headed for the next yard bird feeder.
The ducks walked over to the water tub and
looked inside. It was not yet full enough for
them, so their retired a couple of yards.
It was time to release the goose. He is a Chinese
Goose, pure white with yellow bill and
yellow legs, and he towers over all ducks. He
ran out to his water tub, honking and flapping
his wings. This was too much for the ducks and
they took off, leaving the water tub to Guardian,
the goose. Guardian watches our yard to
earn his keep. He was hand raised by the children
of a Donna pet shop owner, when we purchased
him 12 or 13 years ago, so he loves being
petted and carried, but that does not make
him properly tame or calm. He is known to bite, leaving black and blue
bruises on our legs. So it is easy to understand
why the ducks gave him a wide birth.
Later in the day I noticed a duck sitting on
our roof, checking out if it was safe from the
goose for ducks to drop into the yard to fill up
on corn and water.