This Thursday’s Child—Nests and Roses

Sharing the same parking lot traffic island as the killdeer, this savvy mallard took a different tactic to defend her nest, by backing under a rose bush as far as a duck could go.

Maybe she’d lost an earlier nest to a marauding raccoon. The thorns on these multiflora roses didn’t seem to have much impact on her feathers.

Seeing her reminded me of a story in a book my grandmother gave me. I don’t remember the precise title, and my nieces and nephews now have the book, but it told unusual stories about how a famous zoo gathered some of the animals in its collection. There were tales of a llama who subsisted on brooms during its voyage from South America, an elephant who traded pennies for gumdrops, and a baby African bush porcupine that made its journey to the zoo in the hat of the collector who had avoided hitting the animal with his Jeep.

Now the duck in my storybook had similar wisdom in nest protection. This duck in the parking lot contended with cars and trucks. The storied duck had enemies even more fearsome, the zoo’s lions. She constructed her nest under a thorny bush on an outcropping of the lions’ enclosure. The lions could see her, smell her, and threaten her, but they couldn’t reach her. When the time came, her hatchlings dropped into the moat, and she led them away.

This duck’s family had a slightly longer walk across the parking lot to the drainage ditch. Maybe another duck will try this again.