Watch the growth of one duckling in Florida and his amazing story as illustrated in these Muscovy duck survival photographs. These 3 photographs are all the same Muscovy duckling from last November to earlier this month.
It is not unusual for a brood of 15 ducklings to disappear one by one within a month of hatching. Blame eagles, hawks, and owls who hunt to feed their babies that hatched at the same time.
The Muscovy duckling shown here beat the odds. He was the last survivor at 5 weeks (photo left), was still at risk from eagles at 15 weeks (center photo), and has survived to a young adult at 30 weeks (photo right). It was more than luck.
Note: Select each photo to view an enlarged 640 x 480 pixel version to see how his look evolved from chick to adult.
My Dad has watched families of Muscovy ducks for nearly 10 years at the same canal near home in Kissimmee, Florida. Only 1 brood had 10 or more survive to young adults. Most had zero survivors.
As a puppy, I was taught to sit and stay with ducklings feeding 1-2 feet away. See evidence in my blog post entitled Well Behaved Puppy with Baby Ducks showing ducks within inches of my nose. The Muscovy survivor in this story knows I won’t attack, and as an adult will still approach me and Dad without fear.
What makes this survival story amazing? As the last duckling survivor at 5 weeks, and unable to fly, the adult ducks would abandon him for several days at a time. Imagine seeing him alone at night swimming aimlessly around the canal. At 5 weeks he was certainly still at risk for owls who hunt at night. Regardless, he did survive.
You may wonder what makes this Muscovy survivor different. Unlike any others observed over nearly 10 years, this abandoned baby displayed unusual intelligence. Dad would toss a piece of bread into the water, and he would swim away 4 or 5 feet rather than eat.
Almost immediately, a school of tiny minnows would gather to nibble the bread and compete for a mouthful. Next, the Muscovy duckling would swim through the group at top speed with his head held low and scoop up a mouthful of minnows.
Again, he would ignore the bread, wait, and repeat this behavior over and over. That’s pretty smart for an orphan duckling at 5 weeks old! A diet of fresh fish instead of getting fat on bread is a good lesson for people, too!