It is now 25 days since I wrote about the female Australian Wood Duck being taken, and the male duck raising eight ducklings. In that first post I mention we had sighted the ducklings about a week before. So, give or take a few days, the ducklings are now a month old.
We still have eight ducklings, and they are beginning to grow their adult plumage. It makes me laugh out loud to see them running along the ground, flapping their still-flightless wings in practice for the big day when they will fly for the first time. On occasion it looks like they are having a training run, as all eight are running along flapping. Other times, only one or two test their wings.
As the male duck leads them around, some of the ducklings are becoming more adventurous. He often needs to wait or go back to round-up two ducklings which have decided to explore in the opposite direction. I’ve noticed that sometimes the male duck allows all eight ducklings to range away from him as they feed. On three occasions the eight ducklings were swimming in the dam and the male duck was feeding up near the house. After five minutes, he flew down to be with them. I realise he needs to feed himself to take care of them, and this is where the absence of the female duck will be important. I’m a realist, and I know that now they are big enough to provide a feed for a predator, yet unable to fly to get away. For the time being, swimming is their best defense when left alone for those crucial five minutes.
Despite the risks, I have hope that all eight ducklings will survive to adulthood. Based on previous years, I won’t know what happens to them after they fledge and take off in a larger flock at the end of Summer.