Duck Wars: Is there anything humans can do?
June 29, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

We have two families of ducks on our pond. The older family of six started killing the new babies of the young family of ten.

The mamma duck from the family of ten attacked and injured one of the family of six, wounding his leg.

I got the wounded duck and treated his wounded leg with Neosporin and veterinary gauze. He stayed in the house with us for three days.

When I released him back into the pond this morning, his OWN SIBLINGS promptly killed him, murdered him in cold blood.

Is there anything that the humans can do, to stop these murderous ducks? Every day there are fewer and fewer ducklings on the pond.

What do ducks teach us about the nature of war?
posted by shipbreaker to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Ducks are very territorial. I have one in my backyard flock that likes to murder sparrows (I now call her Duxter). Not much you can do (except if you do help another wounded one, I wouldn't re-release him there).
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:02 PM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Just a quick note: if folks have an answer for the duck problem, that's great; Ask Metafilter is not intended for general philosophical discussion purposes though, so the nature of war is not really an issue we can address here. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Is there a wildlife rescue place near you? If these are wild (usually mallard) ducks then someone might be willing to come out to trap and relocate one of the duck families.

Or you might try calling Animal Control to see if they can come out and take away one of the duck families, or get you a trap so that you can.

If they are your own ducks or your neighbors', then there might not be much you can do about it, but accept that nature is red in beak and claw in this instance. I lived in a condo where there were a lot of ornamental ponds and, consequently, loads of ducks (wild ones in this instance). There were few "duck wars" because there were loads of ponds, and people who would feed the ducks; but the baby ducklings had a very low survival rate anyway because raccoons and hawks (and the occasional outdoor cat) LOVED to eat them.

It's sad because baby ducklings are cute and fuzzy, but the reason so many ducklings are born is so that some can live to grow up, because most die.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some years ago I had a job I hated. Fortunately, it was a five-minute drive from an excellent birding spot, one that had three ponds and a tidal marsh area. I got to know my local waterfowl very well because I went there at least twice a day, every day, regardless of weather.

Mallards* have large clutches at least twice during the breeding season because that is how evolution has decided to do it: they are terrible parents, and so they have many ducklings per clutch to offset the very high mortality rate, and in this region (coastal Northern California) they can have a long breeding season with many layings.

I would regularly see a newly hatched clutch of mallard ducklings numbering a dozen reduced to three or four within a week; by contrast, the Canada geese would lay one or two eggs, and when the gosling(s) was ready to leave the nest, both parents were nearly always in attendance at all times.

I know seeing it in person can be difficult and upsetting. It's also How Things Work, and having some level of being okay with that will come in handy.

* They're not the only ones, but they're by far the ducks you're most likely to see, at least in the lower 48/southern Canada; ditto Canadas when it comes to geese.
posted by rtha at 3:12 PM on June 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would call the local wildlife rescue people. They may move one of the duck families (or at least their ducklings) to another location and are capable of treating injured ducks.

And, yes, ducks can be homicidal (duckicidal? anaticidal?) territorial maniacs. I remember I was pretty shocked the first time I saw a duck murder.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:55 PM on June 29, 2014

This summer I've been watching the ducks, Egyptian Geese and Canada Geese all breed. They all have different styles but essentially waterfowl breeding is pretty brutal all round.

They will always several baby birds to the Swans, Herons, Crows or each other. It's a nasty brutish world out there on the river, but that is why there are so many baby birds.

Let them be, don't get all human on them.

I've tried teaching ethical behaviour to the geese (through food based reward systems) but they don't have it in them.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:44 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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