Never is the evolutionary imperative that encourages us to take care of our young more apparent, than when observing babies– of all species. But before I wax on about the irresistibility of the ducklings pictured above, I will point out that I am not immune to the human variety. A co-worker can attest to this, based on the squeaks and squeals he witnessed today as I looked at baby pictures on an iPad. I did pet the iPad, and not just because it was an iPad.
But, back to the ducks, as they are the subject of this post after all. I have already described in several posts how families of Mallard ducks come and mate in our campus fountains, but I finally have the pictures to prove it. And not just pictures of extremely fluffy ducklings (see below for maximal fluffiness), but evidence of a rare, genetic abnormality– an albino duckling!
Chad, as he has been named to tease a certain Restaurant Associates manager who works nearby, is like a little real life Ugly Duckling, although he will grow up to be a mostly white duck, not a swan. He is, almost certainly, completely unaware of his difference, and yet it is so apparent to all watching as he bobs around the pond like a fluorescent highlighter.
What I observed on Thursday while watching him swim with his two siblings, was that he was by far the boldest and most adventurous of the three. Any doubts I might have had that animals can have distinct personalities (and as a pet owner I truly had no doubts) were set aside one day, years ago, when I watched a mother raccoon guide a large litter of her pups across our garden. She wanted them to climb up a tree, so that they could jump over the fence into the garden next door. All of them dutifully followed her–all, that is, except for two, very different (although physically identical) pups. Lagging raccoon #1 would not jump because he was scared. He hovered on the edge of the fence, trembling, while mom called to him from the other side. He inched closer and closer to the edge and finally, hesitantly, dropped himself over. This is when Raccoon #2 realized he was now alone in my yard, because he had been having just too much fun exploring to follow mum. He rushed up to the fence, but instead of jumping over right away, he climbed up a branch that reached even higher than the fence top, held on as the branch sagged into the neighboring yard, and let himself drop off–backwards.
Chad is similar to Raccoon #2. It was time to jump into the pool, because Chad jumped first. It was time to dive under the barrier to swim to the second pool, because Chad did so–and so on. From the way his siblings happily, and Mom begrudging, followed, it seemed unlikely that any of them were aware that he was different, “challenged” perhaps–certainly not Chad.
I wish Chad the best. Not all the duckling that are born into these fountains survive. Currently there is Chad’s mom with 3, another mom with 6 and a third with 8 babies. At various times mothers and fathers succumb to the pressures of this over-crowding and atrocities occur. I am in the unique position this season of rooting for one specific duckling, one that I can follow and miss (should he go missing). The good news, however, is that I am not alone. Everyone has fallen in love with Chad and intends to protect him, especially–apparently–his human namesake.
More duckling pics, from the other families, below.