Well, it looks like we have a bisexual duck. Or possibly transgender. Maybe both? Or maybe he is actually changing sex and becoming a she. Yes, in the duck world this is actually possible.
Something is going on with our Little Laddie, and we are not quite sure what. Laddie is a young lad, just over a year old. So a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. And his hormones are raging. Truly.
So as our girls are starting to nest, he is getting more and more frantic for some of ‘it’. And with all the girls now nesting, we have noticed that Laddie has taken an interest in the boys. This is a new one for us.
At first we figured it was a territorial, pecking order, male thing. Except he took a particular interest in Sir Studly (and with a name like that who wouldn’t?).
Usually when the girls are nesting we let the boys out altogether for a forage. Usually. Except if we let Sit Studly join the gang, Little Laddie suddenly comes over all amorous, chases him around the garden and tries to mount him.
Studly comes running to me and hides behind my legs. I take this as a sign he is not keen. He gets scooped up and put back in the enclosure, where BeepBeep (his mate) is nesting, separating him from Laddie. Studs then pines to be let out to join the other fellows, his beak pressed up against the dividing gate. Laddie pines for Studly, beak pressed up against the side of the enclosure.
So with Studly inaccessible, Laddie has taken a particular interest in George. (He who is partnered with Maggie). George is normally hanging around Maggie, or more like velcro and practically attached to her. But when she nests, he gets a tad bored. So he goes looking for the boys to hang out with, drink a beer maybe (not really) and generally catch up on football. (Okay, we are guessing here.)
Usually. Except now he has to dodge and weave from Laddie’s amorous attentions. Once more it is a race around the garden. George this time coming to hide behind my legs and having to be removed back into the courtyard of the barn, where Maggie is nesting. Give him an hour and he is ready to dodge and weave again from boredom. Or he takes himself off upstairs into our apartment to see if Pumpjack is about and will chat with him.
We have a sort of solution during the day in that we close the ducks into the (divided) enclosure. Studly and Gabby, best mates, on one side, with a nesting BeepBeep. And Laddie and Louis on the other side with a nesting Neige. For some reason Laddie has no interest in Louis. There’s some relief, or it would get really complicated. And in this set up none of the lads bother the nesting girls.
We have a drainage hole that runs through the base of our barn, from interior to the garden. We call it the hedgehog hole as this is how our resident hedgehog comes in and out to partake of the duck food in the evenings. (He is particularly partial to the mealy worms, as are the ducks.)
George has discovered this way through. So when we think he is locked safely away in the barn courtyard, next thing we know he has shown up in the garden and all is chaos. So in locking the ducks in the enclosure, we now just open the barn door and let George come and go, visiting the boys (safely) when he wishes, whilst also checking up on Maggie in his rounds.
Normally we do not let our ducks wander about unsupervised due to predator birds (lessons learned). But this works because now that it is summer, Chewie, our standard sized dachshund hangs out in the courtyard and/or garden sunshine. He is a great guard dog for the ducks.
We have been doing some research on bisexual ducks and have discovered a lesser known bird world. It turns out that the genetics of birds is quite different from most others. And their X and Y chromosomes, or in their case Z and W, differ in their purpose. It’s too complicated to explain here, so I link a comprehensive article ‘How Does a Duck Change Its Sex?’ on the BBC New website for those in to the science.
What it amounts to is that birds, not just ducks, can change sex. It is not common, and mostly is female to male, but it does happen. No one is truly certain why. There are theories about too many females or males about. Or a need for more. We have too many males at the moment in our ratio to females, so this could be what is happening with Laddie.
Or it maybe something they are just born to, eg born a boy but want to be a girl. And in their case they can make it happen without surgery. And some are hybrids, in that they are both.
I’m starting to think our Laddie is going to be both. He like most of our ducks, is starting to go through a moult. His under feathers are definitely now female, with the typical brown pattern. His upper half is still male. This could be a mid-season moult only, but the timing is amazing.
He doesn’t have his telltale curly feather at the back which is the prime visual indicator to whether a duck is male or female, but during a moult sometimes this feather does disappear. We wait to see if it comes back. Or not.
So we are not anticipating his interest in the boys to wane, but we are curious whether he will continue to wish to mount them, or if it will become vice versa. Time will tell.