Little Quasimodo the hunchback duckling is now gone, although in a good way.
His back slowly straightened out, the hole in his head mostly disappeared beneath healthy fluff, his nub of a wing gradually lengthened to almost equal the other, he’s eating and drinking like a champ, and his mobility is quite good. One eye still looks strange but other than that’s he’s thriving. In two day’s time he transformed from an injured, weak, and misshapen little newborn into an active, thriving ball of fluff who managed to scale to the top of his stuffed bear, hop onto the lip of the crate he was in, and almost topple off into the waiting jaws of Dane the mangy rescue mutt lurking just below.
They grow up so fast, don’t they?
Clearly, we’re not duckling-proofed around here so, after nourishing fantasies all day Saturday of taking an older Modo out to paddle along contentedly behind my kayak whenever I go, I went online instead and Googled bird rescue centers in Boise and found the Ruth Melinchar Bird Center (an offshoot of Animals in Distress Association) which opens every year from April to September and takes in thousands (literally) of orphaned wild ducklings and goslings to raise and then release back into the wild.
(Boise is a major nesting area for mallards and Canada geese and in the spring it’s not at all unusual to see cars on major city thoroughfares careening to a halt as a mother leads her newly hatched brood out across the street heading for the nearest body of water because nobody wants to run over a string of babies. Nobody.)
I freely admit I was fighting back tears while driving over to the center to deliver Modo into his next life. Turns out nursing a fragile baby bird through it’s first couple of days is something of a bonding experience…you wouldn’t believe how fast it happens…and I was beyond sad about giving him up, scared that he might get lost and pecked to death by a band of unsupervised ducklings, and worried that I might have already screwed him up for life by letting him imprint on me in the first place.
(A typical Mother’s Day.)
But the rescue center was delightful, the women working there were cheerful and grateful I’d brought him in, and they let me go back and peek into the tub that held eleven other shy ducklings nestled contentedly in a corner before they slipped Modo in with them. At first I was glad that he barely paused before heading straight for the others, but then he started pecking at them which drove them all away, at which point I swung from the fear of him being pecked to death to an uneasy feeling that he might grow up to be one of those detestable drakes that chase down females and tear clumps of their feathers out while trying to mate.
I also found myself irrationally wanting to apologize for his bad manners and explain that he might have been brain-injured, but the women assured me his aggressiveness was a good sign.
In any case, he’s on his way now, saved from a cold and certain death on our driveway for some other kind of certain death later on, hopefully after he’s had a chance to fly and swim and mate and nest and fish and migrate at least a couple of times beforehand, although I’ll never know. But anyway that’s what I’d like for him.
Or her. I asked and was told there’s no way to tell gender when they’re still that young so I can add that to the list of things I’ll never know.
Anyway, I took one last video of Modo out in the garden with which to remember these two halcyon days of surrogate motherhood by. Here’s all one minute and thirty-four seconds of it for anyone interested in seeing how much he improved:
(I just discovered that this video is no longer available. Evidently, when I deleted by Google+ account it deleted my YouTube account as well. First do no harm? Right. Sigh…sorry for the tease.)
Also, for anyone interested here’s the contact information for the bird rescue center:
Address: 4650 N. 36th Street, Boise, Idaho 83703
I gave them a very, very grateful donation before I left and if anyone else feels so inspired I figured I could at least make it easy for them.
copyright Dia Osborn 2013