Ducks: When the Males Reign

A conclave of male ducks was an oddity in my long history with ducks at Brant Lake. In past years I would arrive at Brant Lake in early June and I would be greeted by a mother duck leading six or seven baby ducks to my bird feeder. They would wait under the feeder for a Blue Jay to land on the feeder and shake seed that would then fall to the ground for the momma duck and her kids. Occasionally a mother duck would fly on to the feeder instead of waiting below but that was unusual.

So what happened this year? Because of the pandemic we arrived at Brant Lake several months early. Instead of seeing a mother duck only, the male ducks were present. This was a pleasurable sight since the males are more beautiful than the dull off-brown females. The males were dressed in cocoa with heads and necks of yellow and green.

Usually when I arrive at Brant Lake the males are nowhere in sight. Yet this year only male Mallards populated the feeder. Was my yard recently designated as a gay bar–or more appropriately a gay restaurant since ducks only drink water from the lake? And in spite of the pandemic, the males grouped closely together with no social distance. I was living in a Brave New World–or so it seemed.

As I pondered the reversal from female to male I remembered the words of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes “to everything there is a season.” Were April and May the time for males? I could picture an invisible sign that read “Males only. No females permitted.”

Concerned with the gender shift I consulted a duck expert. He laughed at my naivete. “Don’t you understand. The females are home sitting on their nests. The males already did the hard work and impregnated their mates. Their work for the season is complete. Now the males can gather with their brothers and share tales of the past year.

“Once the babies are born they will disappear, perhaps to a local boys camp, and the females will once again rule the roost, or at least the birdfeeder. It happens every year. The males may be more handsome but what would we do without women?”

The words resonated as I refilled the birdfeeder with the finest sunflower seeds. New birth. A new beginning. Isn’t that what all of us desire at this difficult time? Isn’t that what we always wait for–the opportunity to begin again.

All of us are waiting for a new world to emerge out of the present day. We wait for the shell of despair to crack. When that time finally comes all those male mallards will have disappeared and a family of little ones, call them hopes for the future, will parade across the lawn, a beacon of a new day.


6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dear Dan,
    Those of us who grew up in Boston know well the story of Make Way for Ducklings in which the father duck abandons his wife and newborns so that he can “explore”. Well, the story doesn’t say he abandons them but that’s essentially what he does! Thank you as always for your inspiring words. Which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, from Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”


  2. What a peaceful and calming view you present. It’s refreshing to share the insights garnered from your physical environment and the hope that it inspires for the future. Although, in the current lockdown, our view of the outside world is somewhat limited, Cherie and I share your optimistic expectation of the future in the hope that it will soon come to fruition. IM YERTZAH HASHEM.


  3. A beautifully written rendition for hope…
    Ecc, 3:1-8 is a passage of great comfort to me.
    Thanks you for this lovely ‘view’, Dan.


  4. Dan:

    What a pleasure these last few weeks to enjoy your always interesting and relevant observations and life lessons. You have unique experience and insight and it is a blessing for you to share them with us. Stay safe, healthy and active,
    Marc Lustick


  5. Love your musings on the love life of Mallards and male hierarchy. Right on with the females raising the family alone. I enjoy so much the beautiful way you view the world and thank you for sharing. Also love the way you write like the “waiting for the shell of despair to crack” which is so apt in this moment and bird world. Best your fellow bird lover and friend, Margot


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