I had a question from a reader. It was a good observation about Daisy and the multi-tasking she has to do such as security, nest cup maintenance, incubation, and feeding herself. You might have noticed that no one relieves Daisy when she needs a break. It would be ‘monumental’ in terms of security if that were the case but, it isn’t. The Pacific Black Ducks are similar to the Mallards in that the males might go with the female to look at nesting sites but it is her choice. If the nest is down in the reeds by the water, they ‘might’ provide some security. Indeed, Daisy is responsible for nesting site choice, nest cup creation and maintenance, incubation, brood rearing, and getting her own food. Dr Mike Brasher in his article, ‘Understanding Waterfowl: Drakes and Ganders’ points out one of the issues when he says, ‘In North America, nearly all duck populations consist of a higher proportion of males than females…This gender imbalance is mostly caused by higher rates of mortality suffered by females while nesting and brood rearing.’ In other words, it is dangerous for Daisy to be left alone and yet the species has not developed behaviours that would see the female protected or assisted. Daisy is most vulnerable when she is incubating her eggs. David Sibley says that in many studies, ‘…up to 30 percent of adult females did not survive the four weeks of incubation.’
Daisy and other ducks spend approximately 23 hours a day incubating eggs for 26-30 days. She relies on her camouflage, be alert, puffing up to enlarge her size, and travelling quietly to avoid predators. I think she also needs a great deal of luck. Sibley says that ‘A nesting attempt has only a 15 percent chance of fledging any young.’ Once fledged, he adds that only about a third of those that fledge survive the first 2 or 3 weeks.
In other words, we are witnessing something rather miraculous if all goes well and those eggs of Daisy’s hatch and fledge. There were some who thought Daisy was ‘crazy’ selecting this nest but with the odds maybe she isn’t. Indeed, maybe Daisy was not ‘a crazy duck’, at all, selecting the WBSE nest. She tried last year and even with the Sea Eagles coming often, they showed no intent to harm the duck. They were curious. Dad seemed to be concerned about who dared to lay eggs in Lady’s nest cup and his nest. Daisy and Dad played ‘nest tag. She would often fly off the second he landed. One day he sat on the camera tree waiting for the bird to show up that owned those eggs. Daisy stayed away. She would have noticed him from a nearby tree and the second he left the forest she flew to her eggs. Dad broke one of the eggs – perhaps by accident. He didn’t like the taste of the egg but he was very curious about the down as was Lady. They didn’t know what it was – they had never experienced it. Neither of them liked it! The down stuck to their beaks and just about drove them crazy trying to get it off. No, it was the Ravens wanting the eggs when they saw them. While there were a few days to go to hatch, Daisy had held out that long. She learned something, I hope. That is not to leave the nest unattended during the normal daylight hours. That is when the Ravens could come and predate the eggs. So far, she has left on average around sunset and before sunrise. The last set of breaks was an exception – there were three in a 14 hour period – shorter in duration than the longer break days. With the cooler weather and what Daisy learned from last year, we can only hope that she does not leave the nest during the prime daylight hours when the Ravens are about.
The cam operator zoomed in and there are some wonderful closeups of our darling Daisy.
It is 16:00 on the nest and all is well. It is 23:00 on the Canadian Prairies. I have a nasty habit of getting up to check on Daisy constantly even though the sound is on quite high to alert me if any Ravens or WBSE come to the nest. Fingers crossed the time from now until Daisy departs the nest for her evening meal will be blissful and free of any incidents.
And all has gone well. Daisy left the nest at 18:11:17 – well before sunset at 20:03. That made me a bit nervous. However, Daisy pulled it off. As luck would have it neither the WBSE or the Ravens came to the nest while she was away that I could see. She returned at 20:25:37.
She has lots of down to cover the eggs. The down is quite visible but maybe the WBSE will leave it alone since they don’t like it on their bills – if they come and then if they notice.
Daisy had that enlarged esophagus or ‘crop’ when she returned. It looks like she had a very good foraging!
It is Day 16. It is now 04:14 on the nest. Daisy seems very content. Sunrise is at 05:40. The weather forecast is for a ‘possible’ scatter thunderstorm in the Sydney Olympic Forest area around 16:00. The temperature will rise to 34. Much hotter than Daisy has seen on the nest. I hope those storms with their rain are scattered. Daisy really is relying on that gorgeous down to protect those eggs.
Thank you so much for joining me. I will have an update in early evening of all the day’s happenings for Daisy. Continue to send your positive energy to this amazing duck that just might defy all the odds. She certainly has a huge support group that love her so much.
Thank you to the Sea Eagles @ Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre at the Sydney Olympic Park for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.