When a duck needs a duckmate

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Musco the duck is in existential pain.

I know this from the way he rolls his beady eye away from me, not that long after he has ambled over for a visit, briefly offering a ruffle of his topnotch feathers. Musco faithfully ambles over, despite the fact that I have repeatedly explained to him people food is not good for waterfowl, and we do not feed the ducks at Mountain Lake. Nevertheless, if he’s in the area when I come sit on the rocks, Musco ambles over, and we commune blissfully with nature, in a sort of duck-to-human relaxation therapy session.

But duck does not live by bread alone. Duck should not, in fact and in the natural state of things, live alone. And Musco is all alone. I am on a one-woman campaign to find him a Muscovy mate.

Just to clear things up: Musco may not be his proper name. He may even be a she, what do I know? All I know is this: among the coots and Mallards and miscellaneous waterfowl that have returned to Mountain Lake since the Presidio Trust (thank you, taxpayers!) undertook the monumental job of rescuing it from centuries of neglect and abuse, there is only one Muscovy duck. A lovely, friendly, peace-loving duck, but all alone.

Could we please find him (or her, as the case may be) a mate?

I first met Musco a few months ago on one of my regular visits to Mountain Lake Park, a lakeside San Francisco park with a Parcourse fitness trail which functions as my personal outdoor gymnasium. Wondering who this strange new creature might be, I posted his photo on my Facebook page with a comment that I had spotted a turducky on the lake.

Not so, immediately replied my far-flung Facebook friend (that’s another story) in Sarawak, Borneo. “It’s a Muscovy. In Sarawak we call it a Serati.” Turns out, a lot of people call it an ugly duckling, and worse. Florida has more of them than they want in some spots, elsewhere cross-breeding has created strange water-fellows.

Musco, however, seems quite beautiful to me, and here he is all alone. He swims on the periphery of the coots, ducks and assorted seabirds. He is, happily, not the least interested in the pigeons on the beach. What’s to be done?

An eminent visiting biologist friend pooh-poohed Musco’s singularity. Muscovy’s are all around California in ponds large and small, he said. If this is the case – and who’s going to dispute a distinguished Professor Emeritus? – then surely there is a mate for Musco. Surely some nearby pond owner would like to make such a match and surely the Presidio Trust wouldn’t mind?

The incredible, beautifully restored Mountain Lake might even be home to a family of little Muscovites.

I’m just sayin’.

4 responses

    • Thanks! Wish I had time to do more just-for-fun, especially world-of-nature writing. (As you see from my archives, I spend a LOT of time fighting for end-of-life choice and reproductive justice.) But I will definitely keep you posted on Musco. Hoping the Presidio Trust will join me in this project.

  1. Musco is a feral domestic Muscovy Duck. Unfortunately without the newspaper charisma of an alligator or a swan. He has been at Mountain lake for about two years. I heard through the grapevine that two years ago 2 young male muscovy ducks of this color pattern (somewhat rare brown-rippled) were at the Sutro baths at the same time that Sutro Sam the otter was there so I suspect he flew over to Mountain lake from there when he was younger and slimmer.

    People food is fine for him. They will eat just about anything if they have some experience with it. The real reason you see signs posted advising against feeding bread etc is that this can lead to messy, overpopulated sites where other problems can occur. Uneaten food attracts rats and leads to hypertrophication of the water. Years ago a male and female muscovy were at Mountain Lake resting on the rocks that jut out into the water. A 5 or 6 year old girl came up to them and emptied a half-full box of Trix cereal over the female! The female was so startled she adopted the chest-up, head down posture of a duck trying to shed heavy rain!! The Trix, being unfamiliar, went uneaten except by those shrieking, annoying gulls as the muscovies departed for a more tranquil locale.

    Also, Diane Feinstein specifically had law rewritten in the late 80’s to make it clear that it was legal to feed waterfowl in city parks (but not pigeons! not gulls! not blackbirds! not squirrels!).

    Muscovy ducks are a tropical/semi-tropical species so their domestic version can survive but not thrive in cooler climates as they don’t have the fat layer of domestic mallard-derived ducks like the Peking. In fact, they are sold in high-end restaurants as “low-fat” duck. In a quarter-century of watching Golden Gate Park I have never seen a single muscovy duckling hatch although I have seen some females trying to nest. All the muscovies I have seen have been Easter presents or the like dropped off in the park just like the chickens, partridges, chukar, and rabbits (prior to the coyotes there was a 5-10 strong domestic rabbit bush at the NW corner of Metson Lake…coyotes also got rid of the horrible feral cats but it was too late for the native quail). In the last 6 months alone about 10 or so muscovies have disappeared from GGP. Only about 5 left currently. Can’t be just the coyotes because this has been happening for decades.

    As an adult Musco should do ok all alone although of course he’d appreciate company. Ducklings should never be raised alone as they will imprint on humans and try to fight etc them as adults. Musco will molt in the fall and have nice new feathers by November…if he survives. He has a much better chance than females who seem to get heavily predated the first time they try to nest.

    I haven’t been over to Mountain Lake lately. Give Musco a tidbit for me. But don’t point your arm straight at him, this mimics the aggression of another bird who wants him to move away (neck straight out and low to ground). Stretch your arm out at more of a perpendicular angle and let him approach.

  2. Thanks a million, Doug. I’ve talked with folks @ the Presidio Trust, and communed with Musco at length today (I am getting pretty ridiculous with my attachment to him/her) about a change in plans. DuckMatch.com is on hold. I hope to write it all up in another day or two. Can’t believe he’s been at Mountain Lake that long, but it’s surely possible; he and I just didn’t connect until earlier this year. I so appreciate your comments, and hope you get back to Mountain Lake again soon. The lake is regaining its centuries-old beauty and it is a joy to behold.

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