I had read somewhere that ducks mate for life. It’s my understanding that quite a few species of birds do this and I find that interesting. What is it that makes certain animals loyal in this way? Are they “in love” as we humans are, or is it just something more basic and instinctual? I know scientists will say it’s instincts and genetics and probably all comes down to survival, but being the Disney-fied Dreamer that I am, I like to think it’s all to do with romance. I was convinced that ducks have soul mates and they are forever loyal to one another (sigh).
Until a recent trip to the park changed all that.
The boy and I were having a picnic at the Will Rogers park in Beverly Hills when we saw a pair of ducks, one male and one female, fly in to bath in the park fountain. It was then that I brought up the fact that ducks stay together forever and that this pair was certainly a married couple in love.
The boy laughed at me and was just saying how ridiculous my idea was when another pair of ducks (again a boy and a girl) tried to swoop down into the fountain. Suddenly the first male duck took off. He chased the new couple off, quacking and making all kinds of noise. The new couple flew fast and high out of sight with the belligerent duck close on their tails.
His mate, the lady duck, stayed calm and remained in the fountain. She was clearly awaiting her mate’s return and she demonstrated a demeanor of confidence. She knew that he’d come back.
10 minutes passed, then another 10. Still no sign of the male duck. His lady began to swim around the fountain a bit more nervously, darting back and forth, looking around and giving out annoyed quacks every so often.
Another 10 minutes and the quacks had become desperate now. Where the hell was her mate?
“He left her for that other bird,” the boy said nonchalantly. But that couldn’t be. “They mate for LIFE!” I cried. But yet, here she was, abandoned. I couldn’t believe it.
Another 10 minutes went by and the sky was starting to get darker. We needed to go home, but the male duck still wasn’t back. As we gathered our picnic supplies and started for home, I looked back to see the lady duck still in the fountain. Gliding back and forth and quacking. My heart went out to her and her worry over her lost love! Could my theory on the love-habits of ducks really be so wrong?
As we neared our apartment I felt my sympathy for the duck begin to lessen. “I am sure the boy duck came back by now and they are together at their nest.” I said.
And the my boy looked at me and said, “Yeah, I’m sure they are.”
In case you’re wondering, I did some research after this dramatic event and found that mallard ducks do often mate several times with the same partner and that the males will often stay around after their chicks have hatched. But this isn’t always the case. Some take off shortly after mating, some females will ignore the males after mating causing them to simply have to move on. So it actually varies from duck to duck, some are loyal and some aren’t. Kind of like humans! ; )