by Maria Bott
The townhouse complex where I live is a diverse community. We have many residents from Central and South America, and we call them Muscovy ducks. From my upstairs window I can see these large, colorful birds waddling around the pond at the back of the property.
Muscovy ducks don’t quack. They communicate by softly hissing. Not only are these ducks quiet neighbors, but they also help out by eating flies, ticks, spiders, mosquitoes, and even amphibians. They’re mostly friendly, but just like anyone else, they can get agitated if feeling threatened.
Left to their own devises, wild ducks would have no reason to encroach on private property. Unfortunately, we have a resident here on my complex that likes to throw food out onto his front yard. Whether it’s a cat, a rat, a coyote, or a duck, if you throw out food, you’re throwing out an invitation to wander into the residential areas. This invitation created a problem for another resident, Cynthia, that lives across the path from him. One of the ducks built a nest and laid her eggs in a nook, right next to Cynthia’s front door! Cynthia was concerned that the mummy-to-be would become aggressive, and she was looking for someone to move the nest.
I stepped in quickly before another ‘helpful’ neighbor offered to throw the nest and eggs into the garbage. Cynthia had already called FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission), but they consider Muscovy ducks to be an invasive species, so they were of no help at all. It was my friends at FVA that suggested calling Gail Dixon, of the Muscovy Sanctuary of Florida.
Gail reassured Cynthia that as long as she didn’t try to touch the eggs, mummy duck wouldn’t bother her either. Muscovy ducks sit on their eggs for up to thirty-five days. When the time came, mummy and baby ducklings left the comfort of Cynthia’s front porch and waddled down to the pond. As ducks will often return to the same nesting site, Cynthia has now filled that cozy nook with potted plants.
People feed ducks out of kindness, but it’s usually with bread. According to National Geographic and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, ducks should not be given bread; it offers little-to-no nutritional benefit, and they could fill up on it instead of other beneficial foods. For good health, feed them: lettuce, cabbage, kale, peas, squash, alfalfa, and bananas (no peel), and feed them down by the pond!
Sadly, not everyone is kind to Muscovy ducks, but as Gail Dixon says, “We understand that the ducks can annoy people, but that does not give people the right to purposely injure them. Please help us spread the word to save these birds. And if you see someone attacking them or purposely running them over, please get video of it and report it to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).” For information about the Muscovy Sanctuary of Florida, visit: www.muscovysanctuary.org, or call or text: 813-616-9639. This 501(c)3 non-profit organization is looking for volunteers, donations, and land to help rescue and rehabilitate our feathered neighbors.