Did you know ducks need dirt, or grit, to digest? No, I didn’t know either, until Maggie came into our lives.
Maggie’s water bowl used to be cleaned diligently and she, at every opportunity, would try to put dirt, sand, grit, gravel you name it back into the clean water. It became a sort of game, how quickly she or I could dirty or clean the bowl respectively.
And then I learned that ducks add grit to water, or simply eat dirt when water is not around, as this acts as a sort of sandpaper in the stomach, aiding in breaking down the food for easier digestion.
Having a pet has enticed me to learn more about them, to research, understand, observe. There’s a lot more information out there on cats and dogs, but definitely less so on pet ducks. Still, I found a ‘go to’ place for duck research. Cornell University. They actually have an Ornithology Lab, where they study ducks, and other birds. They have done some really in-depth studies, particularly on mallards. There information was very helpful, even though mostly based on ducks in the wild. It was where I learned about imprinting, grit and duck language.
For example, ducks like to flirt. Autumn is the time to start looking around the flock for a mate. (They do not mate for life, though they may choose the same male season after season). This entails making a certain little stuccato sound and sort of side bobbing their head at the male they are attracted to.
Watching Maggie, I can see she does some things by nature and some by nurture. She likes to playfully flirt with me (especially if George is not about to see her). When George is in view, she flirts with him, telling me to ‘stay away’. In the past couple of weeks, the lads of our flock have been flocking around Maggie. Our matriarch is truly popular. She favours George, but she’s not opposed to keeping court.
And then there are shoes, better yet toes. Maggie has a shoe fetish. When anyone comes to visit, she has to check out their shoes. If it’s summer and toes are on show, even better. Toes make her flirt. Our open toed guest gets the full Maggie treatment of head bobbing and staccato trills. And the odd toe nibble if Maggie is quick enough. And this inevitably results in grit between the toes. Hmmm, tasty.