The white duck's effect on the flock
It was about seven years ago that we downsized, moving into our condo on a lovely little lake in Oregon.
We discovered a new world of bass-voiced bullfrogs serenading us well through the night, geese landing with awesome splashes on the lake and the docile duck families generally quiet except for a few family squabbles. After the geese became a problem on the nearby golf course and walkways due to their undisciplined elimination habits, management hired a group called The Geese Guys to suggest to the birds that they land elsewhere to mate and defecate. Some of the eggs discovered in well-hidden nests were oiled to prevent their hatching. The Geese Guys were alerted when the birds splashed down and quickly came to the nearby lakes with their Australian shepherds. The dogs never attacked the fowl but intimidated them with their steady stare. Though the dogs love to swim they were never asked to enter the water.
The geese no longer mess up the golf course or leave their droppings on the paths. All is quiet on the lake, usually. I am enjoying watching the ducks these days and noticing how the past several generations have been affected by one totally white duck. Was this an albino born into our duck families or did it come from another visiting clan?
When we first moved here I was awed by the iridescent feathers on the heads of males. In the afternoon sunlight their feathers looked purple or dark blue, depending on which direction they were swimming. Females were all a standard drab mottled brown.
Over the past several years our ducks have been showing a lot more white feathers particularly on the tips of wings and tail feathers. Some of the males are sporting a beautiful purple stripe bordered by a thin strip of white on their wings, very elegant indeed. Even the females' plumage shows off more white.
I have never been a student of genetics or researched my family history but I am increasingly interested in what is going on with our local duck population and the effect this lone totally white duck is having on the future of our duck families. It is easy to observe changes in size, color, length of neck and most of all color and pattern of feathers, but I wonder what other unseen changes are going on in our duck population. Then again I also wonder about changes in values of our culture: things like trust, honesty, integrity, compassion, responsibility. I guess time will tell a lot about our breeding and parenting.
Jeanie Oakleaf Anderson is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.