We've had a bit of drama in the back garden this week. It's like a soap opera, or maybe Desperate Housewives (Desperate Ducks?).
The other afternoon I noticed the male and female ducks out back at the bird feeder, where they eat the seeds that have dropped to the ground. But Mrs. Duck was acting strange. She seemed agitated, waving her tail feathers madly, then charging the male duck, quacking furiously at him, veering off before she reached him. He just looked on helplessly, a harried husband who can't seem to please his wife no matter what he does.
I wondered what was going on. Was she getting ready to lay eggs? Was she perhaps regretting her choice of mate? I also wondered why I hadn't noticed the bright white cravat the male duck sported on his chest. The bright markings of the males of the species are so much more striking than the non-descript females—does this help them attract a mate? What would a female duck find attractive, I mused—a guy with a teal green head? Burnt orange feet? Or was physical attractiveness less important than a clever quip—err, quack?
Later, as we were sitting down to dinner on the patio, three quacking ducks flew off the roof and over the back garden, then landed in the pasture. My husband grabbed the binoculars (doesn't everyone keep a pair of binoculars on the table?) and informed me there were now two males and one female.
Even from there I could spot the white cravat on one of the males—he was not, it turned out, the original mate of Mrs. Duck! An impostor Mister! She was angry at him because he was the wrong duck!
He must have been cruising the bars—back gardens—in hopes of scoring. A little extra-nest affair was what he was after.
Later, I watched from the kitchen while I put away the dishes. Mr. and Mrs. Duck were back, this time, the RIGHT Mr. Duck. He stood especially tall, his beautiful, understated, brown neck craned upward as he eyed the corner of the yard, where no doubt Mr. Goodbar lurked, hoping to entice Mrs. Duck into an illicit relationship. She contentedly pecked the grass for seeds, her earlier agitation forgotten.
I'm glad my ducks are faithful to their vows. It might not be so good for ratings, but they seem happy.