Muscovy life

A Muscovy duck on a South Florida lake

Five years ago, I knew nothing about Muscovy ducks .... and then I relocated to a place with a small lake that many Muscovies call home. The ducks were not shy about approaching me and introducing themselves, and I've since learned much about them and how they live.

One of the things I've witnessed is their tendency to hang out in packs of around 7 ducks that operate as a tiny community with its share of squabbles and issues. Despite their differences, they tend to -- for the most part -- bed down together at day's end in one spot alongside the lake.

Within their unit, there always seems to be one male duck who is in charge and he's typically surrounded by the female ducks in that small group ... perhaps in part because he chases all other male ducks away from them as needed. It's a big job that he seems to take very seriously.

If you've ever witnessed Muscovy ducks mating, you may understand why female ducks might want this sort of protection.

The duck pictured above, who I have come to call Gravy Train, has been the "duck in charge" for awhile now ... but he seems to have an apprentice, a duck (pictured below) who is training for the position of top duck. 

Up-and-coming top duck on a South Florida lake

I have been seeing the younger duck above since he was about three-inches tall. Initially, I would see Gravy Train trying to chase him off as he grew up ... but now he lets him hang - at least on the outskirts - possibly because it's exhausting to continuously attempt to stop a duck who is trying so very hard to be a part of something. Or perhaps because these ducks are so inter-connected and he has a soft spot for the younger duck (who may be his offspring).

These are the things I think about while watching the neighborhood ducks. This -- and the fact that I wish female ducks could become empowered enough to have a more satisfying life ... one which did not involve becoming beholden to male ducks for protection or sitting on nests for weeks on end only to give birth to adorable chicks which are typically stolen from them and eaten by predators.

It just seems like such an incredibly hard -- and heartbreaking -- life.