We discovered ducks are empathic when our Maggie was just a young duck. As an imprinted duck, and our first duck, she had rule of our home.
Yes, she lived inside with us. She truly believed I was her mother, so to separate her from me would have been cruel. Not to mention noisy, as she would not stop calling for me even if was only out of the room for 5 minutes. Like puppies and kittens, they look to their ‘owner’ to give knowledge as well as stability. And like all young animals, they do eventually grow up and find some independence. Phew.
I digressed to give some context of how much a part of our life Maggie was (and is). In this context of being Mum to a duck, there was one day when I received some very sad news. I did a lot of crying that day and Maggie stayed very close. I did not think much of this as she normally was in those days. Then I was on the bed, crying, and Maggie flew up, walked up and cuddled herself against me.
Now Maggie is not a cuddler by nature. She is too busy exploring and dominating her world. But this day, she cuddled. And I noticed. She truly was trying to give me comfort. Touching her beak to my cheek, and making a cooing noise. That was the first indication and the start to realising that ducks were empathic.
It was cemented when a couple years later, I had to tell Pumpjack some heartbreaking news. I consoled him as best I could. Maggie was in our little garden and came in to check on us. When Mr P got up to take his grief outside for a walk, Maggie followed him. And even though he was not wanting company, Maggie would not leave him. She followed him all around the grounds in silence, and comfort.
We have had many incidences since, not just of sorrow but anger and joy too, where we have realised the ducks are tuning in. Crying, they wish to comfort. Anger or yelling and they quiet, stand around and stare in trepidation. Joy and they join in the euphoria, zooming around us or quacking a certain happy quack.
The amount of empathy does vary slightly, like it would in humans. Maggie is most definitely the most empathic, and/or sympathetic. At first we thought it was an imprinted thing, but Gabby, who is also imprinted on me, is definitely not as empathic. They all respond, but the amount and involvement does depend on the ducks temperament and personality.
And it is not just ducks. Chickens too. We have noticed even that the birds in our garden react similarly. We have lots of different types of birds that live and hang about our French homestead. Finches, crows, owls, sparrows… a bird lover friend counted 28 species in our garden alone when she visited us. (Amazingly able to tell birds simply by their calls, as well as by sight – what a gift!) They too react when our ducks react, though to us, at least, the reaction isn’t quite as strong. But maybe that is simply because they are like the aunts, uncles and cousins to the immediate family, and so thus one level removed.
Oh, and along these same lines, we can tell you that Ducks Grieve too.