Friday, April 7, 2017
For Jody, One is a Lonely Number
One is a lonely number -- especially for birds who are by nature, members of flocks.
This past winter, I worried for Jody, the domestic Indian Runner duck at Harlem Meer.
It was not known if the flightless duck was prepared for his first winter in Central Park and if he would know how to survive frigid temperatures, an often iced-over lake and snow storms.
Fortunately, it was not an especially brutal winter in New York City. Though occasionally icing over, Harlem Meer remained partially or entirely open water throughout most of the winter and as such, served as suitable winter habitat for many wintering migratory ducks and geese.
Jody was thus, not alone in dealing with winter. He had many wild and experienced "mentors" who knew well how to get through and survive nature's grueling and harshest season. Jody had only to follow their leads and so he did.-- Successfully.
But truth be told, each season brings its own special and unique challenges.
Winter is now a few weeks departed. Migratory (wintering) geese, mallards and even the feisty little wood duck who stayed at the Meer throughout the winter have also departed with the last snowflakes.
What currently remain in Central Park are the relatively few (compared to winter numbers) resident geese and ducks, most of whom are now paired up and in territorial mode.
Such is not good news for Jody who is neither part of an established flock or coupling.
A couple of weeks ago, a then-smitten Jody briefly attempted to cozy up to a female mallard who, for the moment, appeared amused and welcoming of his attention. But the mallard was apparently part of a wintering flock and has since departed with the rest of her clan.
Unlike Jody, all the other water birds of Harlem Meer can fly.
So, Jody is once again the loner, "low bird on the totem pole" and subjected to chasing and harassment from the more dominant and paired wild ducks. Jody is forced to keep respectable distance at all times and not compete with the other birds for food or territory.
Mating season can be nothing short of torment for the solitary bird who is the "odd one out" on the lake. There is not even possibility for Jody.
Watching Jody yesterday, either swimming alone and away from the other birds or (when venturing too close), chased and harassed, I could not help but feel bad for him. Wild ducks and geese may have accepted Jody in winter when all were in survival mode, but spring brings with it, entirely different behaviors. It is no longer, "All for one and one for all," but rather, "Get out of our space."
Though it's terrible to say, I can't help secretly wishing for another domestic duck to be dropped off and miraculously appear at the Meer.
Anything for Jody to finally have a friend, as one is such a lonely number for an otherwise social animal. -- PCA