Beatrice the Mallard

On December 26, 2010, Beatrice the Mallard was rescued from a hawk's death grip (twice), who had apparently been scoping her out for a while.  See, Beatrice was not like the other adult ducks---something was very wrong with her.  For about two weeks prior to the hawk incident, she had been battling the cold Michigan winter in a shelter of brush in a small wooded area in my backyard.  She was only coming out to eat.  This was a great location for food because there is always plenty of variety of seeds, corn, cat food, etc. that has been placed out for other birds and animals (not necessarily ducks).  I noticed that her feathers on her neck were perpetually wet, which was very unusual.  I never observed her flying---she only walked around.  I am pretty sure that previously, she was walking back and forth from the creek to the food with the other ducks in the area, but had to stop when the snow got too deep---I remembered seeing her limping in the feeding area and back into her hideout.  On December 26th, Brian called to my attention that the hawk had a hold of the duck.  I couldn't believe it.  From the angle it was holding it, I couldn't even see it, but I trusted Brian that it was under the hawk, which had its wings spread wide, as if it were hiding the duck from me.  We stared into each other's eyes through the window for at least 30 seconds.  I didn't know whether to let the hawk have its meal, since it was nature after all, or to try to do anything.  I finally decided I couldn't let the duck die like that and I made a lunging motion toward the window.  Suddenly, the hawk let the duck go and took off in flight.  I knew that was only temporary though because that hawk knew what an easy meal that duck was.  Sure enough, not even 1/2 hour later, the duck was captured again out in the yard.  I was screaming and pounding at the glass doorwall.  Brian opened up the doorwall and went outside and the hawk again flew off.  It was going to be dark within an hour or so and we had to make a choice.  I knew that we could ward off the hawk for the rest of the evening, but most likely, would find a torn-up, bloody duck in the backyard the next morning.  It was a very tough decision to take this duck in, because if you know anything about ducks, they are messy and poop A LOT!!!  Brian decided to name her Beatrice.  I was pretty convinced by the look of her feathers and size, and peeping sounds, that she is just a young duck that was born too late and didn't have a chance to develop properly before winter hit.  I was hoping that she can live with us throughout the winter, grow up, and be released, which is exactly what happened.

Beatrice's first video and photos, 12-27-10

This video shows her drinking water.  The first 2 days, every time she drank, the water would pour right through her chest along with blood.  Apparently, the hawk's talons punctured her esophagus.  Surprisingly, by the third day, the hole had closed and no water came through her chest anymore.


You can see more blood spots on the towels, especially in the first picture.  The second row of of two photos shows her walking in the laundry room.





Beatrice Walking and Eating, and Doing "Water Behavior" on 12-27-10

These videos were also taken the same day as the one above, but show some of her other activities.  She does some strange things with her neck and wings which are normally done by ducks that are in the water.  She dribbles water around on the ground from her dish and does this.




Beatrice resting and "talking" on 1-3-11


Beatrice standing in kitchen on 1-4-11


Beatrice on 1-6-11 with head in wings

Beatrice in her favorite chair on 1-9-11




Beatrice Preening in the Sun on 1-17-11

Here she is fixing up her feathers.



Beatrice enjoying the view on 1-27-11

Here are photos and video of her, perched on her favorite chair, looking out the window.





Beatrice doing her chair routine on 2-25-11

Here she is jumping up and down off her chair and looking out the window.



Beatrice's morning greeting and resting in her chair on 3-8-11




Beatrice falling asleep in her chair on 3-14-11



Beatrice peeping and playing in the water on 3-17-11



Beatrice's first shower on 3-19-11

Here is Beatrice in the shower.  It is her first time getting totally wet since she's been in the house.



Beatrice on 4-12-11 Resting in the Family Room

She likes to sit or stand right on the visquine in the middle of the floor sometimes...




Beatrice on 4-13-11

Here she is standing in the family room.


These are some action shots of her running back and forth from the family room to the kitchen doorwall.


Here she is flapping her wings.



Beatrice flapping her wings on 4-14-11



Beatrice has a suitor, 4-21-11




Beatrice on 5-7-11 with fox squirrel

She doesn't like squirrels too much.  She actually hisses at them, but it doesn't come out in the video.  She doesn't seem as perturbed as usual---she may be getting used to this one coming up for peanuts.



Beatrice on 5-15-11

Here she is sitting in the kitchen.  You may notice she looks different than before.  That is because she has no wing feathers!  On May 11, 2011, she plucked them all out.  They were laying all over the floor---all her largest wing feathers.  I know sometimes when birds pluck out their feathers, it can be because they are stressed.  Beatrice was so chill all the time that I knew it couldn't be stress.  I figured it was just that she might be getting new feathers.  Sure enough, she was.  I tried to get some close-ups of the feathers coming in.  It was a very interesting process to witness.  I'm not sure that it happens all at once like this for most ducks---seems like it would leave them very vulnerable to predators.  The funniest thing was that when she tried to flap her wings like before, she would almost fall because there was no wind resistance anymore.  Wish I could have gotten a video of this.  It was hilarious.



Beatrice on 5-16-11

The first two photos show some of the tips of feathers coming in.  These photos also give one an idea of how messy a duck is.  These towels had to be laundered every day.  The funny thing about her is that she became "towel-trained" and pretty much knew to only hang out on the toweled areas of the house.  She had a big area in the family room to stand and preen as well as a pathway to the doorwall in the kitchen.  She also had her own pen between the kitchen cabinets (rendering parts of the kitchen very difficult to access for 1/2 a year---no more island!) where she was kept at night, but during the day, she mostly ran free so that she would get exercise.





Beatrice on 5-19-11

These photos show her feathers coming in a little further.  As it grows in, each feather is enclosed in a little tube made of the same material as the quill.  It is very interesting to see this process.  I am not sure if this would have normally happened in nature.  Seems like it wouldn't make much sense to be flightless for all the time the feathers are growing in.





Beatrice on 5-20-11

Every day, those feathers grow noticeably longer!



Beatrice on 5-22-11

I took some closeups of the feathers coming in so you can see the casings.  She picks off these casings all the time and there are pieces of them that have to be swept up off the floor.





Beatrice on 5-24-11



Beatrice on 5-29-11

You can see she has picked off the feather casings and her feathers are growing in well.





Beatrice walking through the kitchen and standing in the family room on 6-1-11




Beatrice preening on 6-2-11



Beatrice on 6-8-11




Beatrice's first bath on 6-12-11

What a happy day!  Today, I examined the spot where the hole was in her chest.  I haven't heard the whistling sound coming from it recently, so I thought it might have healed up.  I sorted through her breast feathers and didn't see the hole.  I listened up close and didn't hear air coming out either.  So we decided to try a bath since no duck can go back to the wild if it can't be immersed in water.  Beatrice was so nervous as the water rose, but then she lifted off and floated!  It took her about 20 minutes to learn how to paddle.  Then I mentioned to Brian that all she needed to do now was learn to dive.  About five seconds later, she stuck her head in and started diving and splashing!  The water beaded right off her back like it should!  She could swim and be set free soon!!!

Beatrice's first bath (tub filling #1)

Beatrice's first bath (tub filling #2)


Beatrice's first bath --- she floats!!!


Beatrice floating and learning to paddle


Beatrice diving and splashing


Beatrice diving and preening


Beatrice diving and splashing



Beatrice on 6-14-11 Resting in the Family Room

I was in the middle of photographing my newly emerged hawk moth with my macro lens when I decided to focus it on Beatrice in the family room.



Beatrice resting in the family room and doing her water behavior on 6-15-11



Beatrice on 6-19-11 with me and Brian, just before her release

This morning, Beatrice flew upstairs.  She seemed ready to go and I worried she would injure herself if she stayed in the house any longer.  I banded her right leg with #2887 so we could identify her if she came back.  Then we took photos of her with each of us.







Beatrice's release on June 19, 2011:  "Free at 3"

I heard the words "free at 3" in my head around 1:00 and just knew that 3:00 was when Beatrice should be released.  It was a gorgeous day outside.  We just got done with the above photo shoot a little before 3.  I took a quick video of her running around the house one last time with me, and then the final video of her release to the outdoors.

Beatrice preening and running around the house


Beatrice's release video




Beatrice makes friends

By 8:00 the same evening of her release, I spotted some ducks about 200+ feet away.  I couldn't see them well with my naked eye, so I grabbed the binoculars.  One duck was obviously darker than the others and I thought it could be Beatrice.  To my surprise, I saw the band glinting in the sun on her leg!!!  She made friends already!  I hurried up and got the telephoto lens attached and got some handheld shots before they all walked off somewhere.  I was so glad to know she wasn't wandering around alone out there.  I only hope that she will return again to say hello someday.

She is the leftmost duck in these photos...



She is the center duck in these photos...




A Halloween Surprise!

At around 2:00 p.m. on October 31, 2011, a group of 5 male ducks and 7 females came to the backyard.  One of the females was the white-necked duck I have seen for several years.  To my surprise, one of the other females had a band on her right leg!  I tried feeding them bread to keep them here so I could get a photo, but I accidentally had my camera on the video setting and snapped a 3-second video.  Just when I got ready with the camera setting, a blue-jay made a warning call and scared the whole flock off.  I am convinced it was Beatrice though because I have never seen another banded duck in this area.  Her feathers were much lighter, like the other female ducks, probably bleached by the sunlight.  I would have never recognized her if not for the band.  I am hoping I will see her again soon, now that I know she has teamed up with the local ducks and is staying in this area.  Here is the video clip.  She is the middle duck near the bottom, nipping at the male to her right.


May 20, 2013, A most joyous day!

Earlier today in my yard, there was a female duck with two aggressive males trying to mate with her.  I checked her for bands, but there were none.  I was telling my mom about the ducks in the yard and mentioned how much I wished I would see Beatrice again.   Later this evening, I was walking down my street, and about 10-12 houses from me is a mowed grass field with a couple flowering trees.  As I was walking by the field near one of the trees, I noticed a female mallard was walking across the street toward the tree I was heading for.  I didn't see any band on her leg while she was walking, but I figured I should take a better look.  After she crossed the street and was walking in the grass, I still couldn't see if she was banded because the grass was too tall, so I walked toward her so that she would walk into the area near the bottom of the tree, since it was bare dirt.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw there was a band on her right leg.  I started talking to her and saying, "Hey Beatrice, Hi Ducky, etc." and she looked at me and started doing that funny thing with her beak where it looks like she's trying to talk, but she can't make any sounds.  She sat down underneath the tree and I talked to her for a minute or two, and then realized I should probably get the camera.  She was so calm during the photos that she was even closing her eyes as I talked to her.  It was getting dark and my photos weren't turning out to well, so I said goodnight to her.  I hope I may find her again in that spot.  In any case, it has been 23 months since her release, and she seems to be doing well, which made me very happy.










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