Living in a guest house above a tranquil pool on the 100 block of North Van Ness Ave has given Josh Herman a bird’s eve view into the life cycle of the duckling. In fact, Herman could even be considered a co-parent to a mommy Mallard as he helped her raise two families of ducklings in the spring of 2013 and 2014.
“Many mallards form life-long bonds, and we saw the same female Mallard come back three years in a row to make this pool and yard her home,” Herman told the Buzz in a phone interview. The female, who he named “Veronica” would show up in March with her two male companions, dubbed “Alex” and “Jessie”. The males would fight to mate with her and cause quite a commotion, until one finally won out.
The female mallard would lay her eggs hidden in the greenery beside the pool, and the males would help her defend against the resident cats. Once the ducklings were born the males would leave the area, giving the ducklings full opportunity to eat any available food in the area. And eat they did!
“We could hardly keep them fed!” Herman said. “We started by feeding them bread, but soon learned they needed more nutrition so we went to a feed store in Glendale. The ducklings would eat through a five pound of feed in two days. Eat and poop is all they did – the pool would become quite green with all the activity. The pool man was not too happy.”
Herman described how magical it was seeing the ducklings take their first swim, learn how to dive down in the water, and follow their mother around watching how she grabbed bugs and moths gathered near a light source. Sometimes they would all march right into the kitchen if the door was left open, and go for the cat food. Sounds like a chapter right out of the familiar old children’s book, “Make Way For Ducklings.”
“When they got hungry they would group at the bottom of my stairway, honking and making a lot of racket until I came to feed them,” he said. There were seven ducklings the first spring, and eight the second spring. The mother duck would arrive in early March and they’d all be gone by June.
“They would learn to fly and take short flights around the area, just testing their wings. Then all in one day, the ducklings would leave, all at different times. We think we seem them in the neighborhood, but it’s only Veronica and her two men who come back regularly.”
Herman, a former television writer who is currently writing a book, said he regrettably could not welcome Veronica back this spring as his landlord didn’t want the ducks to raise another flock in their pool. “It was really hard not to feed her. I had to leave the property for a while. But after a few days she went elsewhere to make a nest where she could find food,” he said.
Herman encourages other families in the area to consider providing support if they have a mallard find its way to your backyard pool, particularly in this time of drought. They may eat a lot, but they’re grown and gone before real swimming weather and may just give your own flock an interesting learning experience in the process.