Welcome again to Wait Lifters – Uplifting content for every kind of downtime, formerly known as Wiser Now Wednesday. February is Bird Feeding Month, and February 3 is specifically Bird Feeding Day, although they do need to eat more than once a month.  A while back I purchased the right for one-time use of the accompanying Randy Glasbergen cartoon, and this seems the perfect occasion to use it. But the birds I really want to talk about are ducks.

I hope you find these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and welcome your feedback, including your topic suggestions and any other ideas you may have for making each issue better. ([email protected])

The Quirky Quote

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don’t know what to feed it.

~ Steven Wright

The Quirky Facts

I wrote concisely about Bird Feeding Month three years ago, and much as I believe in the cause, today I want to write about all the ways ducks are, well, just ducky.

  • Cartoon characters like Donald Duck and his associates, along with Daffy Duck have been famous for decades, of course. Can you imitate Donald’s voice?

  • Rubber duckies have long made bath-time more fun for Sesame Street characters, babies, and those of us who have never quite outgrown them. Even if you never play with them in the tub, it’s hard not to smile when one is sitting on the edge. Plus, according to the Ducks in the Window website, they now come in over a thousand variations and “costumes.” Wow!

Rubber ducks have also helped raise gazillions of dollars for charitable causes around the world, via rubber duck races. For these, people pay a set amount to enter a duck with a number on its bottom in the hope that it will be the first to pass a set end point after they are dumped en masse to float down a river. It’s a popular fundraiser, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, and winners can earn thousands of dollars, but may be competing with an astonishing 60,000 or more duck purchasers – and you don’t get your duck back if you lose. Photo Credit: http://www.adironduckrace.com/

  • There are also giant inflatable ducks in surprising places. The Detroit auto show in the fall of 2022 featured one that was 61 feet tall because according to this article, in recent years Jeep owners have begun “a movement known as ‘ducking.’ Owners will leave rubber ducks with positive messages on cool Jeeps they spot.” Awwww. (The link has a video of it being inflated.)

But as amusing as I find all these artificial ducks, I am more fascinated by the lives of real ducks.

The Quirky Observations

Ducks have always made me smile because they are cute, social creatures that follow each other around with a funny walk.

I first became interested in writing about ducks nearly three years ago when I came across an Atlas Obscura article with this heading: “A Parade of 2,000 Ducks Keeps a South African Vineyard Running.” 

On the Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate, just outside Cape Town, South Africa, the morning workforce commute is a grassy path trod by 2000 ducks whose role is natural pest control, specifically eating snails and mosquito larvae, and fertilizing the vines with their droppings. Wine and ducks – such a happy combination!

More non-sitting ducks used for pest control can be found in many Asian countries. The Japanese term “aigamo” refers to the crossed species of a wild and domestic duck. According to this article, “The aigamo method for growing rice involves releasing aigamo ducklings into a rice paddy about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been planted.. . . The ducklings help the rice seedlings grow by eating both insects and weeds that get in the way. The farmer can then grow the rice without using pesticide or herbicide. . . . The ducklings' droppings become an important source of natural fertilizer. In addition, they stir up the soil in the rice paddy with their feet and bills, a process that increases the oxygen content of the soil, making it more nutritious for the seedlings.”

On the lighter side, getting your ducks in a row can be a corporate team building exercise. Competitive duck herding is “a thing” in the UK and offered in some places in the U.S. It’s a skill not as easy as water rolling off a duck’s back, but thanks to the ducks’ waddling, the videos found through Google are great for a morning smile.

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The questions

  • Do you have a birdfeeder? What kind of birds does it attract?
  • Do you share my affinity for ducks – real, rubber, and inflatable?
  • Have you ever seen ducks used for enhancing agriculture or tried herding them? Explain.

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The quiz – What’s True About Ducks?

This quiz may not be as easy as duck soup, but close, because there are only two false statements.

Can you figure out which of the following facts aren’t true?

  1. Ducklings, like other waterfowl, learn to communicate with each other in their eggs and try to hatch at the same time.
  2. City ducks have a different, louder accent than country ducks.
  3. Only female ducks quack and their quacks do not echo.
  4. Ducks eyes are on the sides of their heads, giving them 360-degree vision.
  5. Duckbills are sensitive and have many touch receptors, making them similar to our fingertips and palms.
  6. Ducks can swim when it’s cold out because the blood vessels in their feet are close together, preventing heat loss.
  7. Ducks waddle when they walk because their legs are set far back on their bodies and are designed primarily for paddling. Plus, their large, webbed feet mean they have to keep them far apart to avoid tripping.
  8. Ducks once spawned a Gold Rush.

The resources

Photo credits, unless otherwise noted, are purchased from iStock.

Answers to the quiz


3 and 4 are false.


3. It’s true that only female ducks quack, but the myth that those quacks don’t echo has been proven false many times. However, male ducks aren’t silent. According to TheSpruce.com, the sounds ducks make include barks, chatters, coos, croaks, groans, growls, hisses, honks, hoots, peeps, purrs, squeaks, whistles, and more.

4. Ducks have a field of vision of “only” about 340 degrees. Other amazing duck eye facts: They can move their eyes independently and can see objects both near and far simultaneously and in greater detail than humans. Furthermore, according to an Indiana State University study, Mallard ducks stay alert even when they doze. While snoozing in groups, the ducks stationed as "guards" on the outside sleep with one eye open. In doing so, they control which side of the brain stays awake and can sense threats in under a second.

6. Duck feet are marvelously adaptive and impervious to cold, which is why they can walk on snow. You can learn more here. Their feathers, which include a next-to-the-skin layer of down that never gets wet, also help keep them warm in cold water or weather.

8. Ducks will consume gravel, small stones, and sand which they store in their gizzards. The rough textures help break down food. In 1911, according to Ducks.org, gold prospectors flocked to Nebraska after hunters discovered small nuggets of gold in the gizzards of ducks they had shot. However, the fortune-seekers never were able to locate where the gold originally came from. 

My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire are doing, to stimulate your curiosity, and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. I welcome your feedback. ([email protected])

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